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EXLIBRIS UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 



JOHN HENRY NASH LIBRARY 



SAN FRANCISCO 

PRESENTED TDTHE 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

ROBERT GORDON SPROUL, PRESIDENT. 
BY" * 

MR.AND MRS.MILTON S . RAY 
CECILY, VIRGINIA AND ROSALYN RAY 

AND THE 

RAY OIL BURNER COMPANY 




& 



'Volume I 

Three hundred and fifty copies of this book 

were printed by John Henry Nash, San Francisco 

in Nineteen Hundred and Twenty 

Decorations are the work of 

. Rauschnabel 
This copy is 




uth St. Denis : Pioneer & Prophet 

BEING A HISTORY OF 
HER CYCLE OF ORIENTAL DANCES BY 

TED SHAWN 



Volume I: The Text 



PRINTED FOR JOHN HOWELL 

BY JOHN HENRY NASH, SAN FRANCISCO 

MDCCCCXX 



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Copyright, Nineteen Hundred & Twenty, by Ted Shawn, Los Angeles 



Table Showing the Chapters in this Book 

Chapter Page 

Some Reasons for the Making of this Book v 

I. The Beginnings 3 

H. The History of Thirteen Years 9 

in. Radha. First Dance in the East Indian Series (TheTemple) 28 

IV. The Incense. Second Dance in the East Indian Series (The 

Purdah) 34 
v. The Cobras. Third Dance in the East Indian Series (The 

Street) 3 6 
VI. The Nautch. Fourth Dance in the East Indian Series (The 

Pakce) 3 8 

VII. TheYogi. Fifth Dance in the East Indian Series (The Forest) 44 
Vlll. The Lotus Pond. Sixth Dance in the East Indian Series (The 

Garden) 46 

ix. The Egyptian Series 48 

x. O-mika. A Japanese Dance-Pky 56 

xi. Bakawali. A Hindu Love Tale 6 1 

xil. The Garden of Kama 63 

Xlll. The Peacock, The Spirit of the Sea, KuanYin,The Arabic 

Suite,The Scherzo Waltz, and Other Single Dances 65 

xrv. A Dance Pageant of Egypt, Greece, and India 7 1 

xv. Some Performances of Special Interest 79 
xvi. Denishawn, the Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn School of 

Dancing and Related Arts 86 

xvn. Bringing this Chronicle to a Close 94 

An Essay on the Future of the Dance. Ruth St. Denis's Prophecy 101 

iii 



L. 




SomeReasons for the Makingof this Book 

UTH ST. DENIS has finished with her cycle 
of Oriental dances and is looking forward to a 
completely new medium of expression for her deep 
spiritual feeling. And I, because of my love for her 
and my intense admiration for her creative genius, 
feel that there should he some record made of this 
particular contribution which she has made to art. 
When Ruth St. Denis offered her Radha to 
the world, Oriental dancing was associated in the 
minds of everyone with the "Streets of Cairo "and 
the danse du ventre. It was inconceivable to us, 
therefore, that we should come to consider the performance of an Oriental 
dance by a dancer clad only in chains of jeweled metal plaques not only 
as without offense but even as the vehicle of a lofty religious and spiritual 
message. But so intense in her consecration was Ruth St. Denis that she 
banished prudery from the mind of the beholder and he left the theatre con 
scious only of a revelation of great beauty and harmonious art, a pure intense 
fervor, and a profound peace. 

Ruth St. Denis completely changed the notion in the American and Euro 
pean mind of Oriental dancing. It was she who rescued this art from the 
shocking and suggestive, she who gave it great vogue, and now after thirteen 
years she draws in her train a myriad of disciples and imitators. 

This, however, is one of the reasons why Ruth St. Denis feels that she is done 
with the Oriental dance for further creative use. She began with a deep con- 
viftion of the spiritual possibilities of this form of expression; she steeped her 
self in the learning of India and Egypt and the other countries she sought to 
bring to her audiences; she was in complete harmony with the art and relig 
ions of the Orient; and always her dances were born of the desire to express 



Some Reasons a constructive message. Today hundreds of young dancers have copied the 

for the Making of externals of her art: the music, the scenery, the costuming, the cobra-eye rings 

this Book on her hands, the rippling motions of her arms, the very dances themselves. 

But the result is merely a collection of unresolved elements. Ruth St. Denis 

was always intelligible because she used all these accessories as means to one 

clearly conceived end. Her imitators are almost never intelligible because 

they themselves do not know what it is all about, because they have dealt 

with effects, not causes. 

Ruth St. Denis has never sacrificed art to antics. She has upheld her own 
high standard against pressure of all sorts. For many years she accepted poor 
box office returns and even actual losses rather than descend to the popular 
level; and even upon the vaudeville stage the quality of her performances 
was maintained despite continued lack of response from the vaudeville audi 
ences. Everything in her private life money, time,pleasurehas been sacri 
ficed to achieving the perfection which today makes her the "artists' artist." 
I say " artists' artist," for it is those who have labored and struggled, with 
consecration, who most realize her greatness. 

She is more than a great dancer; the dance is but one of the many facets 
which reflect the dazzling light of her genius. She conceived a whole new 
system of movement, a revolutionary school of dance; she performed these 
dances with indescribable beauty and dramatic power; she originated cos 
tume, scene, lighting, music, story, and movement, all blended with consum 
mate art into one unified whole. She was the Belasco of the dance, inasmuch 
as she incorporated into her productions wealth of detail, hut also the Gor 
don Craig, because she achieved the utmost simplicity of effect. Not only 
does she afford delight to those who, running, read, but also inexhaustible 
interest to those who study her deeply. And I believe that what she has done 
in the past is but the mere presage of what she will do in the future. I remem 
ber writing after I first met Ruth St. Denis, "I have always worshiped Ruth 
St. Denis as an artist but I find she is even greater as a woman. "And now 

vi 



that I hare lived with her for over five years I am more truly at her feet Some Reasons 
than ever. for the Making of 

In these year si have been continually amazed at the prolific creativeness of this Book 
this great woman. The world is well acquainted with the artist of one idea 
the writer of one book, the composer of one symphony who never again 
creates superlatively. But Ruth St. Denis has never rested on her laurels, and 
even to her financial disadvantage has produced new creations when profit 
would have accrued from repetition of the old. During all these years, the 
power of mind and spirit which enabled her to triumph over every obstacle in 
the presenting of her first great creations has grown in strength, her art has 
mellowed, her physical technique has improved, and even her face and her 
body have lost not one single element of their youth and beauty. 

It is true that great art has been produced by men and women whose per 
sonal lives were decadent, crumbling, and chaotic. It does not follow, how 
ever, that the obverse side of the coin of art must of necessity be tragedy. How 
much more stimulating and encouraging it is to find that a woman who has 
placed herself among the great artists of all time can yet in her personal life 
bear the closest scrutiny. Both in art and in life Ruth St. Denis is vital, grow 
ing. Constantly putting forth forms of beauty, like radium she perpetually 
emits energy yet suffers no depletion. 

And so Ruth St. Denis, the woman, because of her sweetness and light, the 
high principles of love and truth which dominate her life, the profound depths 
of her spirit, makes me know that we have not yet heard her greatest mes 
sage. She is wholesome and sound morally, keen, analytic, and profound 
mentally, clear-visioned and consecrated spiritually. Verily, I say, this is 
one of the world's illumined! 



Vll 



Ruth St. Denis : Pioneer & Prophet 




CHAPTER I J* THE BEGINNINGS *> 

This volume does not seek to tell the life story of Ruth St. Denis, Pioneer & Prophet 
but rather to present the history of the cycle of her Oriental dances, 
of how they came into being,how they developed, flowered, and mul 
tiplied. 

In 1904 Ruth St. Denis was beginning her third year under David 
Belasco, playing small parts in Du Barry with the famous Mrs. Leslie 
Carter. The Bernhardt type of heroine then dominated the stage. 
It was assumed that a heroine to be interesting must be bad, so the 
theatre was deluged with such pkys as Camille, Sappho, Zaza, Du 
Barry, and others all dealing with consumptive and hysterical ladies, 
passion-driven and intriguing women, courtesans, the dregs of life 
dramatized. The mind and heart of Ruth St. Denis revolted against 
this entire system. 

One day in Buffalo, New York, while looking with Honoria Don- 
ner, a young adress in the Du Barry company, for a boarding-house, 
she passed a drug store and saw in the window a cigarette poster de- 
piding the Egyptian goddess Isis sitting in a niche in the temple. 
Something which had been growing unconsciously in Ruth St. Denis 
through these years of revolt waked in her mind at the sight of the 
pidure. After walking a block, she sent "Patsey," as she called Miss 
Dormer, back to beg this poster for her. 



,11 



Ruth St. Denis All the following week she gazed upon it. "That," she declared,"is 

Pioneer & Prophet w what I want to be. Not a biting, scratching,petty , evil-motived female, 

" but a peaceful, powerful goddess, a symbol of infinity, the soul of a 

" people. I want to be Egypt; not just an Egyptian woman with human 

" emotions and frailties, but Egypt herself! " 

From this moment her whole life was changed. That year while 
touring the United States in the Du Barry company she devoted all 
her spare time to reading and to searching libraries and museums in 
every city they visited. When they reached San Francisco she had 
devised an inexpensive costume and had her photograph made by a 
Japanese photographer there the first visible evidence of what was 
eventually to revolutionize the art of dancing. 

When she returned home at the end of that tour, she enthusiasti 
cally outlined the plan of Egypta to her mother. But at a conservative 
estimate the cost of producing it would be three or four thousand 
dollars as prohibitive, apparently, as if it had been a million. It is 
interesting in this connedion to note that over three thousand dollars 
was spent to bring Radha to its first public performance, and had 
Ruth St. Denis had faith, Egypta could just as well have been pro 
duced first. 

So, appalled by the apparently impossible cost of production, she 
planned to take a small dance from Egypta, add an East Indian and 
a Japanese dance, and take them into vaudeville and earn money to 
produce Egypta. 

There was at Coney Island that summer an attraction called The 
Streets of Delhi. The adors were a really fine troupe of native East 
Indians; there were fakirs, snake-charmers and their cobras in brief, 
the whole atmosphere of bazaar life cleverly reproduced. It was while 
she was watching the snake-charmers that the idea of the cobra dance 
took shape in her mind. Her next step was to delve in the Astor Li- 



brary, where she eagerly read everything concerning India which the Ruth St. Denis 
shelves afforded. Pioneer & Prophet 

From these two sources she evolved a story which was to be the 
East Indian number in this proposed vaudeville ad. In this she was 
to dance before an idol in a temple a dance which had in it the 
beginnings of The Cobras and The Incense and The Nautch all mixed 
together. Then, reverting to her first inspiration on seeing the poster, 
she thought," Why not be the idol, myself, instead of dancing before 
it?" This changed the whole conception. Again to the Astor Libra 
ry for a name. After days of searching she suddenly saw the name 
Radha and knew it for her own. Radha is, of course, the symbol of 
the human soul ever seeking the divine; the passive principle, even 
as Krishna represents the active. But, being a woman, she presented 
the teachings of Krishna through an idol of Radha. 

And in the Bhagavad Gita she found this passage which seemed 
to hold the essence of Indian religious thought: "The mind that 
" gives itself to follow shows of sense drives to wreck and death. But 
" who shakes off the yoke of flesh, lives, Lord. Such a man comes to 
" tranquillity, and out of that tranquillity shall rise the end and healing 
" of this earthly pain." 

From this time on she read incessantly. She haunted the Oriental 
quarter of New York, became acquainted with Hindus, talked with 
them, all the time absorbing information about the temple ceremo 
nies of India. 

The plan of the vaudeville ad of three dances was by now com 
pletely discarded, and Radha had become an entity. Everything in 
her life was bent to the service of this compelling idea. Her father 
lent her what money he could; his employer became interested in this 
apparently wild scheme and advanced two hundred dollars. These 
sums were used up at once, and so her mother rented the one large 



Ruth St. Denis room in their flat, and Ruth had to pradice in a small and dingy 
Pioneer & Prophet dining-room. In addition, a regular income was necessary, so she be 
came a chorus girl in Henry W. Savage's Woodland for about a two 
months' run in New York. When it went on the road she stayed be 
hind, as Radha could not now be deserted. 

At this time RuthSt. Denis made the acquaintance of Mr. Edmund 
Russell, who had traveled extensively in India and was an authority 
on matters East Indian. He was most helpful in supplying informa 
tion and in suggesting where Radha could be bettered. Particularly 
he gave her valuable hints as to the corred way of wearing the garb 
of an East Indian woman. She discovered a wonderful Oriental store 
where Indian stuffs, furniture, and brasses could be found. The pro 
prietors, the Bhumgaras,were very friendly to the American girl who 
loved India, and at the opening of their new store Ruth St. Denis 
danced The Cobras for the first time in public. 

Radha was now costumed, the music for it entirely arranged and 
here her old friend of Belasco days, Honoria Dormer, was a great 
help to her, a decorative screen acquired for a background, and a 
throne for the goddess. 

Then Mrs. Kate Dalliba had Radha given as a private performance 
in her home for a number of guests, and was so delighted with it at 
this stage that the next day she sent a check which made it possible 
to begin the complete stage setting for the temple scene. When this 
had been completed and native Hindus costumed as priests, flash 
light pidures were taken; then came the long and painful "peddling" 
of the ad to the agents and managers of Broadway. For six months 
not one of them would even give Radha a try-out. But several pri 
vate performances kept the pot boiling one for Mrs. Stuyvesant 
Fish, one in the studio of Mr. R. H. Perry, and one for Dr. Holbrook 
Curtiss, who later, when Ruth St. Denis went abroad, gave her a 

6 



letter to the Duchess of Manchester. Finally a morning try-out in a Ruth St. Denis 
dark theatre was secured at Keith's. At its conclusion, the manage- Pioneer & Prophet 
ment had not the grace to ask her name and address, a usual courtesy 
even when there is no hope. Gloom again ! In this difficult hour her 
mother was a source of spiritual strength, and this passage from Ha- 
bakkuk her " refuge in time of storm " : 

" Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the 
" vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields yield no meat; the 
" flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the 
"stalls: uu& fitting wtoiottbfetti ufo- ''. - 

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 
The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' 
" feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." 

As Ruth St. Denis pondered over the situation, it seemed that the 
only way to launch Radha was to rent a theatre for a private perform 
ance and invite the managers to see it under the best circumstances. 
So she went to Henry B. Harris with the proposition. And he the 
first manager in all New York to offer one word of encouragement- 
said, " Before we talk about renting, tell me all about it." So Ruth 
showed the pictures and told the whole story of Radha. Then Mr. 
Harris said, "I will give a matinee in my theatre [The Hudson] at 
my own expense, and I will invite all the managers to see it." This he 
did. Early in January, 1906, at the Hudson Theatre, Ruth St. Denis 
performed Radha, a Hindu Temple Dance for seven of New York's 
leading vaudeville managers : Oscar Hammerstein, Percy Williams, 
Werber, and four others. 

At the conclusion of the performance these men gathered together 
in the lobby and talked it over. Hammerstein was quite sure that it 
was just the thing for Percy Williams's theatre, and Percy Williams 
was equally sure that it would be great for Hammerstein's. The up- 

7 



Ruth St. Denis shot of it was that they all departed, offering no engagement. After- 
Pioneer & Prophet wards, however, Werber offered one performance at a "smoking con 
cert" at the New \brkTheatre Roof for Sunday night, January 27. 
Every idea of truth is born in a manger, and that Sunday night con 
cert was the manger for Radha. 

When the curtain rose and the Hindus came forward to perform 
the ceremonies of the temple before the goddess Radha in her shrine, 
there was much laughter and pseudo-humorous comment. But when 
the blue lights changed to amber, and the goddess stepped from her 
shrine silence reigned until the curtain fell, when sincere and heavy 
applause broke forth. 

And so, even in the face of the most difficult obstacles and before 
the most unsympathetic audience that could have been fo\rnd,Radha 
triumphed completely in this, the first of over fifteen hundred per 
formances of a production which marked an epoch in the world of 
the dance, a work of art which is immortal. 



8 




CHAPTER II M> THE HISTORY OF THIRTEEN 
YEARS s 

Radha, because of its unexpected success on this first night, was re 
peated the following Sunday night, and was then booked for a week 
at Prodor's for two hundred and fifty dollars.This week was extended 
to three weeks,during which time many things happened. Here let me 
quote from Dancing and Dancers of Today, by Caroline and Charles 
Caffin: 

Not that the vaudeville audience, as a whole, comprehended her 
aspirations. At first there was a distindgasp of amazement; wonder 
ment whether to disapprove of the audacity or to resent the lofty aloof 
ness of the conception. But in each audience were afew who responded 
unreservedly to the beauty of the appeal and went out and told others 
of the rare vision they had seen. These, in turn, spread the good news, 
until the manager was surprised to find at each performance a stream 
of people of a type not usually seen at a vaudeville performance, who 
came just before Radha's appearance and hurried away as soon as 
her curtain fell, and who came again and yet again. Truly the people 
who came and saw and were conquered were a cause of some sur 
prise to others than the manager. 

The American public is very prudish. Yet here, a beautiful body 
was displayed with no casings to interrupt the play of light on the 



Ruth St. Denis 
Pioneer & Prophet 



Ruth St. Denis " bronze skin or hide the play of muscles of the lithe limbs. But the 
Pioneer & Prophet " crystal purity of the dancer's intent seemed to have reflected itself in 
" the minds of her audience and banished every thought of prejudice." 
One of those " who came again and yet again " was Mrs. Orlando 
Rouland. She appreciated the beauty of Radha and realized that 
vaudeville was not its right environment. She interested Mrs. How 
ard Mansfield and twenty-four other women of New York and among 
them they rented the Hudson Theatre and extended the following 
invitation to their friends : 

The following ladies, appreciating the beauty of the Oriental dances 
" of Radha, will unite in giving a matinee for the pleasure of their friends 
" at the Hudson Theatre on Thursday afternoon, March 22nd, at half 
" past three o'clock: Mrs. William Allen, Mrs. Karl Bitter, Mrs. Ed- 
" win H. Blashfield, Mrs. Francke H. Bosworth, Mrs. Arthur Davies, 
" Mrs.Harry Harkness Flagler, Mrs. Paul Leicester Ford,Mrs.Richard 
" Watson Gilder, Mrs. Ben Ali Haggin, Mrs. Henry W.Jardon, Mrs. 
" Imanishi, Mrs. Adrian H. Joline, Mrs. Otto H. Kahn, Mrs. George 
" A. Meyer, Mrs. Howard Mansfield, Mrs. Richard Mansfield, Mrs. 
" George L. Nichols, Mrs. Eliot Norton, Mrs. Orlando Rouland, Mrs. 
" Philip Conway Sawyer, Mrs. Howard Taylor, Mrs. AlexanderTison, 
" Mrs. James M. Townsend, Mrs. Allen Tucker, Mrs. J. Alden Weir, 
" Mrs. Charles C. Worthington. Tea will be served in the foyer at five 
"o'clock." ' :, .:^.;ii:';.::. 

But now a new dilemma arose. For an entire performance Radha 
alone was not sufficient. So The Cobras and The Incense, discarded dur 
ing the evolution of Radha, were each made into a separate dance, and 
dhdsmatineeattheHudsonTheatre,March22,i9o6,consistedofthese 
three, with interludes of Oriental music composed by Harvey Wor 
thington Loomis. It was a hugh success. Radha became the talk of the 
town. The newspapers flamed with it; the magazines featured it; Alan 

10 



Dale seized upon it as a trapeze on which to perform some of his crit- Ruth St. Denis 
ical acrobatics. Pioneer & Prophet 

Henry B.Harris now came forwardagain,and^^,instead of go 
ing back to vaudeville, was given in a series of matinees the following 
week at the Hudson Theatre all received by packed houses and with 
great enthusiasm. One matinee in Washington under the patronage 
of Mrs. Alice Barney, now Mrs. Christian Hemmick, a joint matinee 
with Henry C.Burleigh in Orange, New Jersey, one in Boston under 
the patronage of Mrs. Jack Gardner, and one at the Waldorf- Astoria 
Hotel on the program with the People's Symphony Orchestra, fol 
lowed these performances at the Hudson. Then, as the New York 
season was drawing near its close, it seemed best to Mr. Harris to send 
Ruth St. Denis to London. He arranged with Charles Frohman to 
present her at the Aldwych Theatre there. 

So, accompanied by her mother, her brother, and Honoria Dormer, 
she crossed to England and gave three matinees at the AldwychThea- 
tre on July 5,10, and 12, 1906. She was well received, but London had 
not yet waked up to the dance, and her greatest London successes 
came kter on her return. However, many of the intelligent and artistic 
people of London, among whom were the Maharajah of Kapurthala 
and Mrs. Pat Campbell, came to these matinees and recognized the 
great significance of her art. 

After the engagement at the Aldwych, she danced three times for 
the Earl of Lonsdale, and twice for the Duchess of Manchester. The 
late King Edward was present on one of these latter occasions and per 
sonally proffered his appreciation of her dancing. 

Many agents and managers came to the matinees at the Aldwych 
and offered engagements. A certain well-known international agent 
the manager of the Olympia Theatre in Paris came and offered a 
vaudeville engagement in Paris, but at such a price that she could not 

ii 



Ruth St. Denis even have cleared expenses. He maintained that he controlled all the 
Pioneer & Prophet vaudeville houses in Paris, and that she could never play there except 

through him. There came also another impresario, Mr. A. Braff, who 
was to hold an important place in her career for some years. Mr. Braff 
declared that he could pkce her in Paris despite this other agency and 
did so, securing contracts for a month's engagement at the Marigny 
Theatre. 

She went over to Paris to see this theatre, and in her diary, kept in 
a somewhat desultory manner that year, I read: "July 28: Mr. Braff 
and I went to the Marigny Theatre, the place where I am to dance. 
God help me." This was her first experience in the back-stage of a 
Parisian Variete. 

As the opening was not to be until September i, she and the family 
went to Vimereux for a few weeks' rest. They returned on August 16 
to rehearse and prepare for the engagement at the Marigny. Posted 
all over Paris were bills announcing that "Madame Radha, the origi 
nal HinduTemple Dancer," would open at the OlympiaTheatre on 
the following night. This was a terrible blow! Some one in Lon 
don, having seen Ruth St. Denis in Radha there, had duplicated the 
dances, costumes, and scenery as nearly as possible and through some 
malign influence had opened in Paris first. 

On the night of the opening they went to the Olympia to see the 
counterfeit Radha a coarse woman who, copying the externals of the 
art of RuthSt. Denis, was incapableof expressingits purity and beauty 
even if she could have perceived it. It was a disgusting performance. 
And the managers of the Marigny Theatre, who also saw the impos 
ture, said," If this is Radha,we do not want it." Accordingly, they tried 
to break their contradt with Ruth St. Denis, and,failing in this, sought 
to discourage her by putting every possible obstacle in her way such 
as refusing time and pkce for rehearsals. To complicate matters fur- 

12 



ther, it was found that the ballet music of Lakme, which had been Ruth St. Denis 
arranged for Radha, could not be used in Paris. But in the meantime Pioneer & Prophet 
the imitator of Radha had been repeatedly hissed off the stage, and 
at the end of four days her engagement was closed. I find in Ruth's 
diary the line, "And peace, unweaponed, conquers every wrong." 

Rehearsals were granted and things began to open up. Through 
all, the old verse from Habakkuk sustained them. She writes : "This 
" whole experience has been a severe test and trial of our faith in every 
" way. It seemed as if all the error in the world, or Paris, rather, rose 
" up to block our path. Probably we have fought too much ourselves 
" and have not left enough for the Divine Mind to do for us. Never- 
" theless our larger faith will triumph. I only pray that we may use our 
" relationship to God more oftener and stronger than we have. Still 
" I am very thankful that in this awful city and theatre we have been 
" able to bore through the darkness." 

On Friday, August 31, 1906, she gave the " press performance " at 
the Marigny and on September i the first public performance. And 
the pendulum of Fortune, having swung to one extreme, now swung 
to the other. The real Radha created a furore which should have satis 
fied anybody. Mobs waited outside the theatre to see St. Denis come 
out. The press eulogized. Artists wanted to paint her ; Rodin came to 
sketch her arms. The Baron and Baroness Rothschild came to her 
dressing-room and invited her to their home. And the engagement, 
instead of closing at the end of four weeks, was extended to six, keep 
ing the Marigny Theatre open two weeks after the date of its regular 
closing for the first time in history ! 

Mr. Braff had meantime gone to Germany to arrange dates there. 
Ruth St Denis arrived in Berlin on the morning of Odober 16 and 
three days later gave her press performance at the Komische Oper, 
where she danced in the street scene of Lakme, then being given its 

13 



Ruth St. Denis premiere in Berlin. The first complete performance of her own dances 
Pioneer & Prophet was given October 27 at the same theatre.The successes in NewYbrk, 

London, and Paris had all been but leading up to the great sensation 
she made in Berlin, and subsequently all over Germany. Perhaps no 
singer, artist, actor, or dancer has so completely captured the German 
people as did Ruth St. Denis. For two years without a week's rest she 
danced, while success, honors, and fame were heaped upon her, and 
she could have remained indefinitely had she not hungered for her 
own country. A theatre bearing her name would have been built for 
her, if she would have agreed to remain five years more. 

During the first engagement at the Komische Oper, a special mati 
nee was arranged at Charlottenberg ; preceding this was a luncheon at 
which Hauptman,Wedekind, Hofmansthal, Graf Kessler, Richter, 
Hofman,and others paid tribute to this dancer who revealed to them 
such unparalled beauty. 

After the Komische Oper engagement, Ruth St. Denis went to the 
Winter Garten for about two months and then began a tour of Ger 
many, Austria, and Hungary, which lasted for a year and a half, in 
cluding several return engagements at the Komische Oper and the 
Winter Garten in Berlin. In Vienna, while dancing at the Ronacher, 
she received an invitation to dance at the Royal Opera. It was the first 
time this invitation had been extended to an outsider, and no higher 
honor could have come to her in that country. However, contracts 
previously made which could not be changed rendered acceptance im 
possible. The framed invitation is one of Mr. BrafPs proud posses 
sions. In Vienna both The Nautch and The Yogi were added to her 
repertoire, making five dances in the Indian series. 

This tour was interrupted by a month's engagement in Brussels at 
the Palais d' Etc, and by another of two weeks at Monte Carlo. 

In October, 1908, she returned to London. There she had a season 



of six weeks at the Scala Theatre, where she occupied the entire eve- Ruth St. Denis 
ning with the series of Indian dances. She is the only dancer ever to Pioneer & Prophet 
have given a season of solo performances. It is a tribute unequaled 
that the London public filled her theatre for seven weeks for an eve 
ning's entertainment consisting entirely of the dancing of one woman. 
At the end of this season she gave a gala performance to the eled of 
London, in which she presented her first Japanese dance. 

Then back to Germany until April, 1909, when she returned again 
to London and played ten weeks at the Coliseum, receiving five hun 
dred pounds a week nearly ten times as much as for the same dance 
at Prodor's less than three years before. 

After theColiseum engagement, she started on a tour of the English 
provinces, but the kck of response was so violent a contrast to three 
years of unbroken success that she soon canceled her contracts. An 
incident in Edinburgh may give some explanation of her kck of desire 
to continue the provincial tour. The curtain rose onRadha; the priests 
were performing their ceremonial duties. This opening pantomime is 
very serious, very slow, and, to the uninitiated,very baffling. Suddenly 
through the silence the heavy voice of a spedator in the "thrippenny 
gallery" boomed out across the house to a friend of his, "I sy, Bill, 
wot'sitallabaht?" 

Ruth St. Denis returned to America, and in November, 1909, re 
sumed her matinees at the Hudson Theatre. These were so tremen 
dously patronized now that all Europe had shown its approval of the 
American dancer that in December she began to give evening per 
formances the only time that a solo dancer has given evening per 
formances in New York. 

During these years of success, life had become much more compli 
cated for Ruth St. Denis than when she was pkying small parts under 
David Belasco for thirty-five dollars a week. She had to deal with imi- 



Ruth St. Denis tators by the score, none of whom, however, seemed so important as 
Pioneer & Prophet that first counterfeit Radha in Paris. A girl in Danzig, during Ruth 

St. Denis's success in Germany, called herself St. Donis and bloomed 
her short season, then faded away. Gertrude Hoffman prepared to 
present Radha while Ruth St. Denis was abroad, but was restrained 
by injunction, inasmuch as Radha had been copyrighted in 1905 
under the classification of a pky without words. An unscrupulous 
London agent brought suit for ten thousand dollars for some alleged 
breach of contract and got judgment in the English courts through 
Ruth St. Denis's failure to appear she was then in America or to 
have defense at the trial. Again, a Hindu brought suit, claiming that 
he had taught Miss St. Denis the Radha dances. After an annoying 
period in court, she of course easily proved this ridiculous, and the 
case was thrown out. As kte as two years ago an assistant property 
man sued, claiming to have produced The Garden of Kama. 

Early in 1910 Ruth St. Denis took her Indian dances to Boston, 
Philadelphia, Chicago, and a few other Eastern cities. She had now 
added to this series, making six in all, a dance with the scene laid in a 
garden in Cashmere, which she called The Lotus Pond. 

In the fall of 1910 Henry B. Harris, who knew of her original in 
spiration, Egypta, gave orders that it be produced. In contrast to the 
long time given to the preparation of Radha, Ruth St. Denis had 
only six weeks in which to prepare the program of Egyptian dances. 
True, the ideas of these had been in her consciousness for some years, 
and while in London and on the Continent she had spent days and 
days in the British Museum and in every other pkce where she could 
acquaint herself with Egyptian things. She had also been acquiring 
a library of books on Egypt Wilkinson, Budge, Ebers, Breasted, 
Mizraim, and the colorful and beautiful work by Hichens. Yet, for 
all this study, it was a tremendous task to produce five dances with 

16 



scenes, costumes, supporting cast, and music, in only six weeks. The Ruth St. Denis 
production opened at the AmsterdamTheatre in matinees in Decem- Pioneer & Prophet 
ber, 1910. After three weeks it went to Boston, and then returned for 
another short run in New York. 

Under Mr. Harris's management, Miss St. Denis now started on a 
coast to coast tour of week stands, taking three numbers of the Egyp 
tian production : The Dance of Day, The Palace of Pharaoh, and The 
Veil oflsis, together with the five original dances of the Indian series. 
This tour ended in Los Angeles late in the spring of i9i2.While in 
Los Angeles Miss St. Denis renewed her interest in things Japanese. 
She studied Japanese dancing with an ex-geisha teacher every day for 
six weeks. It happened also that there was a very fine company of 
Japanese adors giving a repertoire of classic Japanese dramas and 
No dances, which she went often to see. She also at this time met Mr. 
Ckrence McGhee, who had lived in Japan and whose enthusiasm for 
things Japanese, which he had studied exhaustively, was added fuel 
to her rekindling interest in Japanese dance-drama. 

On her return to New York it became necessary to reenter vaude 
ville with Radha and The Nautch, as Harris had lost money on the 
coast tour. For twelve weeks she played in and around New York and 
in some measure redeemed the loss. 

All this time Ruth St. Denis was costuming her Japanese produc 
tion, and it was agreed with Harris that this should be produced in 
the spring. She had acquired ajapanese dressmaker,a Japanese scene- 
painter, and she had Mr. McGhee come on from Los Angeles to assist 
with information on points of authenticity. 

Just as the production began to take shape, Harris went to Europe, 
and on his return trip went down with the Titanic. This was a great 
loss to Ruth St. Denis, not only professionally, but personally, as 
Harris had always been most kind, encouraging, and helpful in every 



Ruth St. Denis way, and she entertained a deep and lasting regard for him. The Har- 
Pioneer & Prophet ris estate was in a chaotic condition and could render her no assistance. 

But the Japanese production was nownearing completion and must 
be carried on. Ruth St. Denis spent all of her own money on its pro- 
dudion and went into debt besides to the extent of seven thousand 
dollars. Only about three hundred dollars could be spent on advertis 
ingwhich, in New York, might as well have been nothing. And so 
what was one of the greatest artistic achievements of her career was 
also the greatest financial failure. 0-mika, beginning March 11, 1913, 
at the FultonTheatre, ran but two weeks. In debt seven thousand 
dollars, no manager, and with a failure which prevented any possible 
manager from wanting to handle her ! 

At this time the Palace vaudeville theatre was just opening and the 
management came to her for a week's engagement. She hurriedly re 
arranged the Japanese dances for vaudeville, for which they were, and 
proved themselves to be, utterly unsuited. She also appeared for one 
week in Cincinnati. Then nothing more could be obtained until the 
summer when she went to Ravinia Park, just out of Chicago, appear 
ing on the same program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

At Ravinia she drew immense crowds, hitherto unheard of there, 
breaking every record of attendance and of financial receipts since the 
Park came into existence. On the first night she gave as encore an im 
promptu cake-walk to Vidor Herbert's Al Fresco, and she says : " It 
was the cake-walk, not High Art, that filled Ravinia Park." 

Through all that winter Ruth St. Denis managed to keep the wolf 
from the door only by taking an occasional private engagement. In 
the spring of 1914 she secured an advance man and press agent, Harry 
Bell, and with her brother as manager gathered together a small com 
pany to tour the South, apart of the country which had notyet seen her. 
It was at this time that I joined the company as her dancing partner. 

18 



This tour lasted some three or four months and then, in the summer Ruth St. Denis 
of 1914, she returned to Ravinia Park, where I accompanied her to- Pioneer & Prophet 
gether with Miss Hilda Beyer, who had been with us on the southern 
tour. 

Shortly after this engagement at Ravinia Park we went to New 
York, and there, August 13, 1914, we were married. Nine days later, 
with a miscellaneous program, we began a tour of one night stands 
which lasted seven months a long and tedious tour, but it enabled 
Ruth St. Denis to pay back every cent of the debt incurred in the 
Japanese production. Other great dancers who have had staggering 
financial failures, have gone into bankruptcy, and have paid only a 
few cents on the dollar. But Ruth St. Denis refused this easy way out ; 
always scrupulously conscientious in financial matters, her credit in 
the profession as an individual producer is unsurpassed. 

This tour ended in California. I had already had a school in Los An 
geles, and the idea of a school had for years been in Ruth St. Denis's 
mind. It now took shape again, and at Los Angeles, in the summer 
of 1915, we founded Denishawn. 

In the fall we organized a larger company and started on a tour 
again, playing but one to four performances in a city. In New York 
we gave three weeks of matinees at the Hudson and the CandlerThe- 
atres and then accepted a vaudeville engagement at the Palace The 
atre in January, 1916. This engagement was really the first in which 
Ruth St. Denis had won the"man on the street"; always before it had 
been the artistic, the intelligent only, but now the crowd responded 
and in that first week five thousand people were turned away and as 
many the second week. 

After sixteen weeks in vaudeville we returned to Denishawn, which 
had in the meantime gained fame rapidly. The second summer of the 
school was an even greater success than the first. 

19 



f: 



Ruth St. Denis It was during this summer that Ruth St. Denis was invited to give 
Pioneer & Prophet a performance at the Greek Theatre of the University of California, 

in Berkeley. This was the first time that a dancer had been given this 
honor, though many of the greatest dancers of the day had sought it. 
On]\Ay29 ) i9i6,wasgivenADancePageantofEgypt,Greece ;> andIndia, 
with a symphony orchestra, a ballet of over one hundred dancers, and 
thirty trained soloists from Denishawn. For sheer beauty, it is said, this 
performance has never been equaled at the GreekTheatre. But it was 
characteristic of Ruth St. Denis from first to last that so greatly did 
her artistry outweigh her financial judgment that, although there was 
an audience of over ten thousand at two dollars top prices, the produc 
tion cost more than was taken in. 

The vaudeville tour which had been discontinued for the summer 
season of our school was renewed in the fall of 1916 with a condensed 
version of the pageant, performed in a scene which was a replica of the 
GreekTheatre.This lasted thirty-six unbroken weeks and brought us 
again to Denishawn in the summer of 1 9 1 7. It had now grown so that 
it had to be moved into rented quarters three times as large, compris 
ing four buildings and an open-air studio and dance-theatre. 

Ruth St. Denis was intending to take a year's rest, which she had 
thoroughly earned. But America was in the Great War, so I enlisted 
in the army and Ruth enlisted in vaudeville, which she had hoped 
she had left behind forever. But to do her bit she took the drudgery 
of the " two-a-day " and devoted her entire income to war work. 

She became the godmother of the 158^1 Ambulance Company at 
Camp Kearny, California, in which company I was a private. Before 
going on tour she gave with me and some of our pupils the first three 
entertainments ever presented in that camp. Her godsons were well 
looked after, and they were particularly grateful for the weekly break 
fast she provided for them all the time they were there. 

20 



Her vaudeville tour, ending in the summer of 1918, was entirely in Ruth St. Denis 
the West ; she was assisted by her pupil, Miss Margaret Loomis, who Pioneer & Prophet 
had returned to the Denishawn fold after starring with Sessue Ha- 
yakawa in motion pictures, and by her musical director, Mr. Louis 
Horst On this tour she gave a program consisting of The Moon 
of Love a. lyric dance of my composition, The Japanese Flower- 
Arrangement, The Peacock, and her famous Egyptian Palace Dance. 

When this tour closed, she came again to Camp Kearny where I 
was now in the Officers' Training School, bringing with her Carrie 
Jacobs Bond, Elizabeth Murray, and others, and gave an entertain 
ment for the entire school. This was repeated the following evening 
in the Knights of Columbus's open-air shell before twenty thousand 
of the camp. On the third night she was given a farewell banquet by 
her godsons of the 1 58th Ambulance Company. It was attended by 
General Strong, commanding officer of the 4oth Division, and staff 
officers. About one month later this entire division went to France. 

Beginning June 29, 1918, she appeared twice weekly for five weeks 
in the open-air performance of The Light of Asia, described elsewhere. 
On July 27 she appeared at the Greek Theatre in Gluck's opera Or 
pheus. It was repeated at theTivoli Opera House in San Francisco, 
August 1 1 . August 23 the newly commissioned officers from the Offi 
cers' Training School at Camp Fremont gave a celebration banquet 
at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. As I was one of these, Ruth 
St. Denis made a special journey from Los Angeles to dance for the 
affair. She performed her old famous dance, The Nautch, and, with 
me, the duet from the Egyptian Ballet. 

Through all these activities she bore alone the heavy burden of 
directing the work of the ever-growing Denishawn School. 

In the fall of 1918 she gave up her entire time to the selling of lib 
erty bonds. From early morning until kte at night she worked at her 

21 



Ruth St. Denis station in the Alexandria Hotel making speeches and selling bonds. 
Pioneer & Prophet She sold nearly one hundred thousand dollars' worth and subscribed 

for so many herself that she had to accept still another vaudeville en 
gagement to pay for them. 

By this time the influenza epidemic had spread over the country, 
and I, now a lieutenant with the 32nd Infantry, was quarantined in 
Camp Kearny. For seven weeks no one went into or out of the camp. 
All places of amusement within it were closed, and officers and men 
pinedforentertainment. Braving thequarantine,RuthSt.Denis came 
to Camp Kearny, lived for eight days in a tent on the outskirts, and 
nightly gave open-air performances to a ghostly-looking host of sol 
diers whose faces were covered with white " flu-masks." 

The signing of the armistice found her j ust starting on her last vau 
deville tour, booked when no end of the war was in sight and lib 
erty bonds and other war donations were still to be paid for. On this 
tour she carried her musical director, Mr. Horst, her manager and 
personal representative, June Hamilton Rhodes, and four dancers 
Doris Humphrey, Edna Malone, Betty Horst, and Pearl Wheeler. 
Her program comprised a Byzantine number, The Dance ofTheodora, 
The Royal Siamese Ballet,and The Spirit of Democracy. The scenes were 
all designed by Maxwell Armfield. Later, as war themes proved un 
popular, Tta Spirit of Democracy was replaced by an Algerian scene, 
The Street of the Dancers, in which Ruth St. Denis appeared as an 
Ouled Nail. This tour extended over a period of thirty weeks of ac 
tual engagements. 

During this time I had received my discharge from the army and 
had returned to Los Angeles to make preparations for the closing of 
Denishawn now grown to unwieldly size for the purpose of rees 
tablishing the school on land and in buildings owned by ourselves. 

On August i and 2, 1919, Ruth St. Denis made her debut as an 

22 



emotional actress her first speaking part since the Belasco days in Ruth St. Denis 
Miriam, Sister of Moses, a play by Constance Smedley and Maxwell Pioneer & Prophet 
Armfield, at the Berkeley Greek Theatre. This performance is fully 
described in chapter fifteen. 

The school now being closed, we went to live in our country pkce 
in Eagle Rock, a suburb of Los Angeles. I was engaged in producing 
a vaudeville act of Denishawn pupils,/w/ndr of the Sea which is now 
on tour, and Ruth St. Denis in training a group of dancers who, 
with Ellis Rhodes, tenor, and Everett Olive, pianist, are now begin 
ning a concert tour. Six days after the opening ofjulnar, on Novem 
ber 9, 1919, our home,Tedruth, was burned to the ground.The Deni 
shawn library, said to be the most complete collection in existence of 
books dealing with dance and costume was totally destroyed, as well 
as Oriental draperies,bronzes,pictures,all our costumes,scenery,prop- 
erties, and orchestrations accumulated for over ten years. Had the 
manuscript of this book, which I had completed in the kte summer 
of 1919, not been in my business office in Los Angeles, no complete 
record of the career of Ruth St. Denis could have been made, as all 
her writings, diaries, and trunks full of programs and souvenirs were 
burned. 

But this experience, like all others, has only been another proof of 
the inherent greatness of this wonderful woman's soul. Her whole 
philosophy was expressed in one sentence: "Material loss can only 
be spiritual gain." 

Now at last, nearing the end of the year 1919, we face peace, rest, 
and an opportunity to do greater and better things.This will be Ruth 
St. Denis's first rest in fifteen years. 

Let it be said that through all these years Ruth St. Denis had the 
love and devotion of her mother and brother working toward her suc 
cess. Her brother went to Europe with her in 1906, and all through 

23 



Ruth St. Denis England and on the Continent was a constant source of help and com- 
Pioneer & Prophet panionship. Under her training he soon developed into a capable 

stage manager ; much of the credit for the efficient operation of light 
ing effects is his. After the death of Henry B.Harris, her brother also 
became business manager, and in these offices he continued until a 
few years ago, when he formed a dancing company of his own. 

Too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the influence of Miss 
Honoria Dormer in the early and conceptive stages of Ruth St. 
Denis's career. As they traveled together in the Du Barry company, 
it was " Patsey " Dormer who listened sympathetically and construc 
tively to all her dreams and aspirations and who later was of real, 
practical help through the two hard years before Radha finally came 
to recognition. It is interesting to note that Miss Donner has devel 
oped into an emotional actress and diseuse of some renown. While 
she has not met with great popular success at any time, the connois 
seurs and the intelligently appreciative people of New York consider 
her as one of the greatest tragic actresses of the day. 

A separate book should be written about Mother only so could 
she be dealt with adequately. As in the case of most geniuses, Ruth 
achieved what her mother had all her life yearned to achieve; so, vica 
riously, the mother triumphed in her daughter. She has had no other 
thought or interest in her life than Ruth's success. Yet she was far 
from being the doting mother who sees nothing to criticise in her 
child; she erred rather on the side of being too stern a critic. When 
the audience thrilled to some new dance of Ruth's, and her friends 
went into ecstasies, her mother would come behind the scenes and 
say," Well, it was about eighty per cent." And that twenty per cent 
needed for perfection was achieved before her mother rested or allowed 
her to rest. And when on rare occasions her mother was satisfied with 
a dance, there was no public Ruth feared to have see it. 

24 



Untiring in her ceaseless work, unrelenting in her keen but protect Ruth St. Denis 
ing criticisms, she was ever a source of great spiritual strength to her Pioneer & Prophet 
daughter, and gave withal a wealth of affection. It is rare to find genius 
without a background of a potentially great mother. 

And yet when I reread this chronicle and consider the events of 
those years, I wonder that Ruth St. Denis lives. For not only was there 
the stress and confusion attendant upon any great career, but, in ad 
dition, all the difficulties of a pioneer's task. The opera singer has a 
score, traditions, an established organization to guide her, but Ruth 
St. Denis created her own art and interpreted it; practically alone,she 
presented it to the world and by unflagging zeal forced recognition of 
its greatness. This she did with no financial backing save the few hun 
dred dollars borrowed in the early days and paid back, and the kind 
assistance of Henry B. Harris, whose tragic death prevented complete 
repayment. Except for this, she has been her own "angel," manager, 
and producer, as well as the creator, the artist, the interpreter. 
I quote again from the Caffins : 

The art of Ruth St. Denis was peculiarly fitted to make the first seri- 
" ous assault on the American appreciation, because it has that appeal to t 

" the intellect,that literary quality,which is the one to which our training 
" and ideals have made us more susceptible. We all knew, or thought 
" we knew, something about Temple dances. But we did not know 
" enough to take them too literally. Our knowledge was highly fraught 
" with indistinctness, so that the appeal through our intellects to our im- 
" agination was very happy. The motive was never too subtle or intan- 
" gible but that we might gather something which we would translate 
" into our own language. For the writer there was something else than 
" emotional adjectives ; for the painter and photographer, direct inspira- 
" tion; for the musician, rhythmic harmonies of movement which sug- 
" gested music. For each of us something that we could understand. 



Ruth St. Denis ' Thus it arrested the attention of the public, as a merely esthetic ap- 
Pioneer & Prophet " peal might not have done at that time, and forced them to take the 
" art of Ruth St. Denis seriously. And this is just what they had never 
" done before with the art of dancing. Pretty, amusing, even charming 
" it might have been; but never before had they met in the dance this 
" high seriousness of purpose, which compelled a like seriousness of 
" consideration. And so this first appearance was really a matter of 
" much significance and had its effect in the consideration shown to 
" other dancers who have followed through succeeding years." 

And in The Dance by the Kinneys we find : 

One of the most prominent and successful managers in America 
" said: 'There are two ways to succeed with dancers. If they have a 
" sensational acrobatic novelty that has never been seen before, that 
" will make money. Otherwise, you 've got to take their clothes off if 
" you want anybody to look at 'em. Duncan? St. Denis? What does 
" the American public care about art? They have succeeded because 
" they took their clothes off.' 

Any refutation of the above cynicism as affecting Miss Duncan 
" and Miss St. Denis is superfluous. Their work has at all times been 
" charged with a big romantic or mystic meaning. Imitators basing 
" their activities on the manager's creed above quoted, have furnished 
" an illuminating experiment to determine exactly what interest the 
" public finds in the work of the two artists named. Invariable fail- 
" ure has accompanied their approximate nudity, despite the fact that 
" many of them are pretty in face and figure. 

Great dancers have come, been seen, but until the coming of the 
" Russians have achieved few victories of lasting value. 

Genee is an exception; to delight in her work is to be added a 
" real influence in favour of real art. Carmencita,Otero, and Rosario 
" Guerero, all great artists of expression conveyed through the medium 

26 



" of the dances of Spain, have had good seasons in this country. Even Ruth St. Denis 
" though their influence on taste did not seem far reaching, it must be Pioneer & Prophet 
" believed that they helped prepare the way for great things that were 



" to come. 



But the real force of the coming change, the change that was to 
" take its place among the important revolutions in the history of all 
" art was quiedy preparing itself in an American village." 



2 7 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER III 9V RADHA 9V FIRST DANCE IN THE 
Pioneer & Prophet EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE TEMPLE) 9V 

If a Hindu be asked what is the ultimate good that he is striving to reach 

through religious rites, he will answer, "Liberation "; whether he be peasant 

or pundit, his reply will be the same. He must free his soul, the divine particle, 

from the bondage of the senses. A. R. Lyall: Great Religions of the World. 

A vast gloomy temple is revealed, spotted here and there with flick- 

" ering lights, Indian ornament, and pillars encrusted with gold, dulled 

" by centuries of time and incense smoke. Strange figures, supporting 

" the dome roof, and on the ground, wrapt in meditation; the squatting 

" bronze forms of almost nude devotees, their white turbans and loin- 

" cloths catching a gleam of the faint light which pierces the fretted door 

" of the shrine. An atmosphere of mystery and devotion, belonging to 

" another civilization and another age. Then wailing music, as the wor- 

" shipers, offering their gifts, prostrate themselves before the shrine. 

Presently through the incense smoke we are conscious that the 
" doors are opened and the impassive form of the goddess, wrapt in 
" contemplation, is revealed. 

The music becomes more poignant, fresh spires of smoke wreathe 
" up before her, her limbs become animate. Or is it the flickering of the 
" lights ? No, slowly the throb of life creeps into the face. The eyes are 
" half open; the head is slightly raised; the bosom heaves; the head 

28 



" turns slowly. Radha has awakened from her long repose and gazes Ruth St. Denis 
" curiously at her worshipers. Pioneer & Prophet 

Then, slowly slipping from her throne, she pauses to enjoy the pulsa- 
" tion of life, the warm breath of the air, and the luxury of the moment. 
" By degrees, as her dazzled worshipers bend their heads, she tastes the 
" joys and sensations with which she has endowed mortals, and glides 
" into the Dance of the Five Senses. 

Sight is awakened by the sheen and hues of the jewels which be- 
" deck her body and reflect the quivering lights ; Hearing, by the little 
" silver bells that tinkle, as she bends to catch their varied detonation, 
" her whole body alert to note their differences; Smell, by the garlands 
" of flowers in which she wreathes herself, drawing them luxuriously 
" around her, crushing them against her shimmering flesh as though 
" all parts of her would partake of their fragrance ;Touch,by the satin- 
" petaled lotus, laid in turn to her cheek, her arm, her lips ; while the 
" smooth ripple of muscles under her glossy skin responds with shivers 
" of sensitive sympathy to the caressing pressure of her foot upon the 
" ground. Every nerve is sensitive and in turn conveys the message. 
' Then, most human of all,Taste. 

She drinks, and for one brief moment the goddess is intoxicated 
" with human sensation and, flinging away the bowl, abandons herself 
" to the passion of life. In time the spell is over and she sinks to the 
" ground. Then, slowly gathering the self-control of ages, she rises, 
" steps past the prostrate worshipers and the glowing flames of the 
" sacrificial fires, back to the aloofness and solitude of her godhead. 
" The limbs are folded; the hands rest upon the knees; animation dies 
" down down, till again there is only stillness, a supreme patience.The 
w lights flicker out, the gates of the shrine are closed." 

This is as the Caffins sawRadha,and I could not paint the picture 
better. 

29 



Ruth St. Denis The following is reproduced from a little booklet printed in 1905 
Pioneer & Prophet when Radha was copyrighted : 

Radha. Scene: Interior of a Hindu temple. At center back is a krge 
" niche and shrine in which is seated the image of Radha, cross-legged 
" in the attitude of Buddha, before which incense is rising. At one side, 
" temple care-taker kneels in prayer. Curtain. 

Enter first high priest at lower right entrance; he advances toward 
" idol carrying incense, which he renews before the shrine; he kneels 
" in worship ; then, rising, rings bell at the side. 

Enter first temple servant, bearing a tray of garlands of flowers, 
" which high priest takes and hangs around the neck of the idol, then 
" rises and strikes a gong suspended from an arch. 

Enter second temple servant, bearing loose flowers on a tray, which 
" the high priest receives, scattering some over the idol, pouring the 
" rest into a small dish at the foot of the shrine. He strikes the gong 
" again. 

Enter pilgrim with offering of cocoanuts, which the priest receives. 
* Then, dipping his finger into the sacrificial paste, he marks the fore- 
" heads of the worshipers with the sacred symbol. At this point all 
" the bells and gongs are loudly struck. All the servants, pilgrims, and 
" priests advance slowly up stage and kneel in front of the shrine,form- 
" ing a semicircle before the goddess. 

After a short interval, Radha, partly hidden from view by the heavy 
" clouds of rising incense, descends from her pedestal and, standing at 
" the foot of it, gazes with benign countenance on the worshipers who 
" draw back and prostrate themselves before her. 

Radha then signifies that she has taken this form for a short time in 
" order to give them a message. She bids them rise and receive this, 
" which she thenconveys through a mystic dance, the meaning of which 
" is that they must not seek for permanent happiness in an imperma- 



" nent world; that the quest for pleasure through the five senses always Ruth St. Denis 
" ends in unfulfilment ; that peace is only to be found within. Pioneer & Prophet 

The dance is comprised of three figures,the first being performed in 
" five circles one within the other, each circle representing one of the five 
" senses. Each of the first four is symbolized by different objects : jewels 
" for sight, bells for hearing, garlands for smell, a bowl of wine for taste, 
" and for touch she kisses her own hands. 

The second figure is danced on a square representing according to 
" Buddhistic theology the fourfold miseries of life, and is done with 
" writhings and twistings of the body to portray the despair of unful- 
" filment. At the end of this figure Radha sinks to the ground in dark- 
" ness. 

After a short interval a faint light discloses her in an attitude of 
" prayer and meditation. This light, coming from a hanging lamp of 
" lotus design, is first concentrated on her figure, then diffused with in- 
" creasing power over the entire stage. Radha now rises from a kneeling 
" posture, her face illumined with the light of joy within, and, holding 
" a lotus flower, begins the third figure of the dance, which follows the 
" lines of an open lotus flower, the steps leading from the center of the 
* ' flower tathe point of each petal. She dances on the balls of thefeet, thus 
" typifying the ecstasy and joy which follow renunciation of the senses 
" and freedom from their illusion. At the close of this figure, which fin- 
" ishes the message, Radha, holding aloft the lotus flower, slowly dances 
" backward to the shrine, followed by the priests, the curtain meanwhile 
" gradually descending. 

When the curtain rises, the image of Radha is seen seated once more 
" in the shrine, her spirit having attained Samadhi.The worship is over, 
" the lights are out, the priests are gone, leaving the idol, alone once 
" more, to the shadows and the silence of the temple." 

The music of Radha was arranged from the ballet music ofLakme. 

3* 



Ruth St. Denis In the early days, of course, it was beyond Miss St. Denis's means to 
Pioneer & Prophet pay for specially composed music, but nothing could have served the 

purpose better than this. 

The costume came to perfection through a long process of evolution. 
The first jewels were acquired here and there, and sewed together by 
her own hands into chains and girdles and head-dress. Many experi 
ments were necessary before she finally developed the wonderful cloth- 
of-gold circular skirt. At one time she wore tight, ankle-length East 
Indian trousers into which she had to be sewed for each performance. 
The costume which she finally adopted was made in London from 
her own design. It consisted largely of chains of jewel-studded gold 
plaques, representing as nearly as possible the ornamentation of the 
Hindu idols.There were large ornaments for the upper and forearms 
as well as for the legs just above the ankle. A pointed jeweled crown 
with krge pendant earrings made the head-dress. The body, at first 
sight, appeared to be entirely nude,except for the jeweled chains. It was 
stained a light brown and about the loins was an elastic band of the 
same color. Miss St. Denis always wore a black wig, as her own hair, 
which was light brown, had turned almost white while she was in her 
twenties. 

The stage setting was worked out according to the same gradual 
process of evolution as the costume. At first it consisted of no more 
than an Oriental screen, merely a background.Then Miss St. Denis 
had a reproduction made of a Jain temple in which she was seated on 
a lotus throne in a gold niche. Later another and better temple scene 
was painted and a shrine was built which entirely enclosed the idol. 
The seated figure, lighted from above by a concealed blue spotlight, 
could be seen dimly through the fretwork door. 

Ruth St. Denis danced^ adha before more than fifteen hundred au 
diences, thus making of it a classic, for no other dance-drama has had 

3 2 



so great a sum total of performances. Moreover, this was the first at- Ruth St. Denis 
tempt in the Occidental world to preach a religious dodrine through Pioneer & Prophet 
the medium of the dance, an attempt that was little understood, inas 
much as complacent Christianity looks on the Hindu and his worship 
as " heathen." This was also the first hieratic dance in modern times. 
Hugo Hofmansthal, whose Elektra was set to music by Richard 
Strauss as a one-ad opera, wrote as follows: 

ThelncomparableDancer.Inthis extraordinarilyhieratic art strange 
" combination of a strangely alive being with primeval tradition every 
" trace of sentimentality has vanished. It is the same with her smile, and 
" this it is that from the first moment estranges the hearts of women and 
" thesensualcuriosityof men, when seeing RuthSt. Denis. And itisjust 
" this that makes her dancing incomparable. It borders on voluptuousness, 
" butts chaste. It is consecrated to the senses, but is a symbol of something higher. 
" It is wild, but bound by external laws. It could not be other than it is. 
" I saw her for a quarter of an hour, and there were moments such as 
" falling down, kissing her own fingers, drinking from the bowl that 
" have impressed themselves upon the memory as does a noble detail 
" from the Elgin marbles or a color of Giorgione. She will take her own 
" place wherever she appears. Her wonderful directness that severe, 
" almost repellant directness her sublime earnestness that is without 
" a touch of pedantry, all this creates about her that isolation that ever 
" surrounds the extraordinary." 
Ella Wheeler Wilcox said : 

Radha is a dance and a hymn, a prayer, a pidure, and an epic poem 
" all in one. It is better than a sermon and greater than any sacred music 
" ever sung or played. Here is another woman who has created a new 
" thing in art, and again in the realm of Terpsichore. Let her name go 
" into the Hall of Fame. She has elevated her art and given the world 
" a beautiful work." 

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Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER IV ^THE INCENSE *> SECOND DANCE IN 
Pioneer & Prophet THE EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE PURDAH) H> 

It was in the spring of 1911 in the Broadway Theatre in Denver 
that I first saw Ruth St. Denis dance. I had seen the Russians just 
a few months before, and, although I marveled, they had awakened 
nothing deep in me. But when I saw The Incense I wept, not caring 
that it was in a crowded theatre and never before, or since, have I 
known so true a religious experience or so poignant a revelation of 
perfect beauty. I date my own artistic birth from that night. So I can 
not help being personal when I speak of The Incense. 

The word "purdah" means the curtain which sometimes separates 
the women's quarters from the rest of an East Indian household. And 
blue-gray curtains made the background for this dance. Two large 
incense burners, one at each side of the stage, and a low tabouret in 
the center completed the setting. Silence, and then, through the cur 
tains, like a wraith of the smoke, she appeared, a high-caste East In 
dian woman in a smoke-gray sari and choli, or jacket, of seed-pearls. 
In her hands was a tray from which rose a spiral of incense smoke. 

How can I describe the dance? Can another ever bring to you 
unless you yourself have had such experience the beauty of a sun 
set, or of a symphony, or make you feel the impressiveness of a cathe 
dral service? To me, The Incense was all of these. Like some crystal 

34 



tone from a great singer's throat, each movement was flawless, per- Ruth St. Denis 

feel:" something of God." And when, having put incense on the Pioneer & Prophet 

flames, she became the personification of the smoke with rippling 

arms rising higher and higher then it seemed as if the soul rose out 

of my body, and I found myself sobbing. Then rippling again not 

like arms but like trailing wisps of smoke the arms descended, and, 

as quietly as she had come, she disappeared through the curtains. 

Ruth St. Denis has always stood for high things things above 
the petty human orbit, things cosmic and eternal. In The Incense was 
pidured the whole subjedt of worship. It expressed completely and 
beautifully that spirit which rises out of humanity seeking reunion 
with the Divine. 



35 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER V ** THE COBRAS 9* THIRD DANCE IN 
Pioneer & Prophet THE EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE STREET) 9 

The scene is a small bazaar near the Ganges. Merchants tending 
shops, women haggling over purchases, a group of jugglers showing 
their tricks, girls carrying water in jars, a Yogi (a holy beggar) sing 
ing his mendicant's song all this creates the atmosphere of the ba 
zaar. Now in the distance is heard the weird, squealing flute and the 
tom-tom. Ruth St. Denis,with two Hindus who are playing these in 
struments, appears, costumed in a reddish-brown ragged dress, with 
sleeves down to the hands. A brown turban is on the head, and strag 
gling wisps of black hair show from beneath. 

A small platform is brought out, on which she seats herself, cross- 
legged. Up to this time her arms have been folded, with each hand 
over the opposite shoulder. But now they come into play .The index 
and the little fingers are adorned with huge emerald rings which give 
the hands the appearance of two cobra heads.Then she herself the 
snake-charmer; her hands, the cobras begins herdance.The snakes 
coil, writhe, hiss, intertwine, and strike. One becomes fascinated to the 
point of believing it all real. When the dance reaches a climax with 
both cobras striking together, she coils them again about her shoul 
ders and, with her attendants, slouches off, the bazaar life continuing 
for a few moments until the curtain. 

^ 36 



Sometimes in later performances the street juggler did his " basket Ruth St. Denis 
trick." He plunged his sword through his reed basket. Out through Pioneer & Prophet 
a hole in the top, as if it were a cobra rising, a green-ringed hand ap 
peared, then another hand, and finally the lid came off and Ruth St. 
Denis herself emerged from a basket so small it seemed unbelievable 
that it could have held her. 

In the bazaar scene Professor Inayat Khan, one of the leading musi 
cians of India, sang the Yogi song. Of him I shall speak more fully in 
the chapter on The Nautch. 

There are snake dances in India. The nautch girls sometimes take 
a corner of their sari, wound to simulate a snake, and dance with it. 
But Ruth St. Denis's device was entirely original with her.The green- 
jeweled rings for the ringers, copied by so many dauntless imitators in 
the last fourteen years, are never used by the native dancers. 

In later years, when I had seen The Cobras often enough so that I 
could tear my fascinated gaze from her hands, I always watched her 
face.This then became more wonderful to me than the snake arms. 
Had a moving picture been taken of the face alone, it would have held 
me spellbound the entire dance was there, unaided by the arms. 

The Cobras lent itself not only to imitators but also to cartoons. 
Hardly a cartoonist in America or Europe but had a try at it. Perhaps 
that of Maryas de Zayas was the most happy. The Cobras was also seri 
ously painted and sculptured many times, the painting by Orlando 
Rouland and the bronze by Lachaise standing foremost. 



37 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER VI s* THE NAUTCH a* FOURTH DANCE 
Pioneer & Prophet IN THE EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE PALACE) W 

. It was in Vienna that The Nautch received its premiere. This dance, 
as well as The Incense and The Cobras, had been a part of the first idea 
of The Temple Dance in which Ruth St. Denis was to dance before 
the idol. 

The scene of The Nautch is the palace of a rajah while he is enter 
taining a distinguished guest. Two native East Indians, gorgeously 
appareled in authentic costumes, represent rajahs, while others ap 
pear as servants offering sherbet and betel nut, and still others as mu 
sicians. On a divan, back center, sits Ruth St. Denis as the nautch 
girl, a favorite. She is garbed in the voluminous skirts of the nautch 
and swathed in a golden veil. She dances a while, then rests a while, 
then dances a while. This is to suggest the all-night, tedious length 
of the real nautch dance. 

It was asserted by Ananda Coomaraswamy in a recent magazine 
that New York only two seasons ago saw its first real nautch as given 
by Roshanara and Ratan Devi. But may I be permitted to quote from 
The Dance by the Kinneys : 

It is to Miss St. Denis that America and western Europe owe the 
" greater part of their impressions of the dancing of the Far East. She 
" has given the subject years of study; with the objed,far more com- 

38 



" prehensive than an imitation or reprodudion of specific dances, of Ruth St. Denis 

" interpreting the Oriental spirit. To this end Miss St. Denis uses the Pioneer & Prophet 

" strudural fads of the various dances as a basis for an embodiment of 

" their charader in such form that it shall be comprehensible to Western 

" eyes and among Western surroundings. The loss inseparable from 

" the adaptation of such a creation to the conventions of the stage, she 

" compensates perhaps more than compensates by a concerted use 

" of lights,colour and music, co-operating to produce a sense of dreamy 

" wonder, and to unite in the expression of a certain significance. . . . 

The technical charader with which Miss St. Denis invests the In- 
" dian representations is, first, the elimination of any movement that 
" might detract from a feeling of continuity. Every adion proceeds in 
" waves ; a ripple slowly undulates down the body, and even seems to 
" continue on its way into the earth ; like a wave running the length of 
" a cord, a ripple glides from the body through the extended arms and 
" fingers, to go on indefinitely through the air. Rapid movements are 
" employed only enough to meet the demands of variety. Long gesture, 
" long line, deliberate adion, and even colour quality are held in an in- 
" describable rapport with the insistent tempo with which the whole 
" is bound together; there is no escape from the acceptance of the re- 
" sultant multiple rhythm; it is inevitable. A simple, rapid movement, 
" therefore, introduced with due consideration of all the parts of the 
' ' complex, magic mechanism, has the dramatic power literally to startle. 

The success of the composition as a whole, in its purpose of con- 
" veying an impression of the very essence of an asped of India, is as- 
" serted most emphatically by those to whom that mysterious land is 
" best known. To regard the produdion as an exposition of Indian 
" dancing would be quite beside the point. The dances, though wholly 
" consistent with their originals in point of charader, are only a part 
" of a whole. Nor do they pretend to exploit the complete range of 

39 



Ruth St. Denis " Indian choreography; Miss St. Denis herself would be the first to 
Pioneer & Prophet " disclaim any such intention. As she explains her work, she uses the 
" dancing of a people as a basis on which to compose a translation of 
" that people's point of view and habit of thought." 

And a further interesting comment I quote from the London Sport 
ing Times, written by a retired English army officer who had seen much 
service in India : 

Miss St. Denis gives us very nearly the real thing in her dances or 

" rather, let me put it thus : she gives us the real thing, refined and im- 

" proved. The nautch she takes part in, with Indian musicians to play 

" and chant, and a rajah looking on and applauding, is far more in- 

" teresting than any nautch I ever saw in India. The, to Europeans, 

" meaningless stamping and wriggling which goes on for a quarter of 

" an hour at a time, is eliminated, and Miss St. Denis, with rings on 

" her fingers and bells on her slim brown ankles, does just the nautch 

" steps which a European audience can understand and appreciate." 

The Maharajah of Kuch-Behar,the Maharajah of Kapurthala,and 

the Gaekwar of Baroda, men who in India have given many a nautch 

of their own, saw Miss St. Denis, and have expressed their intense 

admiration of her nautch dancing. The following is part of a letter 

from J. Basu, B. A., a Hindu law student of Calcutta: 

We appreciate your refined taste, thoughtfulness, and the amount 
" of kbor which you have given to studying the spirit and meaning of 
" Indian dancing in its highest and noblest form. The unparalleled 
" success which you have rightly gained by your wonderful dances, 
" which are poetry, music, and religion combined, has given me great 
" satisfaction and pleasure. You have caught the true spirit of the East, 
" its mysticism, its ceaseless longing for the infinite, its passionate ad- 
" miration for the .energy or 'Shakti' side of Nature, a feat which 
" I thought was impossible for any Western artist you have not only 

40 



" caught, you have also interpreted it. You are doing a great service not Ruth St. Denis 
" only to India but to the world at large." Pioneer & Prophet 

The literal copying of actuality is not the realm of the artist. Even 
a photographer, when he is an artist, manipulates camera, pkte, and 
print to present you a vision from his own soul, rather than a careful 
portrayal of each mole and wrinkle on the face of his subject. So the 
achievement of Miss St. Denis was not the mere transplanting of a 
nautch dance from Bombay to New York but the presentation, with 
out the sacrifice of any vital quality of the original, of the essence of 
the nautch in a form which every Occidental could know and love. 
Miss St. Denis was acquainted with the traditions of East Indian 
dancing knew the story of Rhadika and Krishna and the Gopis 
which runs as a motif through all nautch dancing but she was deal 
ing with a public which knew little of East Indian thought, art, or 
religion. Thus pioneering, she has created an understanding and ap 
preciation of the beauty of India which has opened up fertile fields 
for later comers to till and reap. 

Through the production of The Nautch, also, it was Miss St. Denis's 
privilege to introduce in America the first real East Indian music. 
Professor Inayat Khan, one of the greatest musicians of India, and 
his native orchestra of seven, playing native music on native instru 
ments, accompanied her in her nautch for an entire tour of the United 
States. In the street scene of The Cobras, Professor Khan, as a Yogi, 
sang the old classic ragas of India. He also lectured during this tour 
at many universities and colleges, from Columbia in New York to 
the University of California, and his advent initiated the recent vogue 
of East Indian music in New York. 

The original nautch costume was green. After returning to Amer 
ica, Miss St. Denis repkced this with a costume of white and silver, 
which had one hundred and twenty-five yards of Liberty silk in the 

4* 



Ruth St. Denis skirt and twice as many yards of silver braid. Her head-dress and or- 
Pioneer & Prophet naments were all real, having actually been worn by nautch girls in 

India. For the pageant at Berkeley her nautch costume was of black 
and gold, and this she wore in her vaudeville season of 1916-1917. 

The painting of The Nautch by Kaulbach, Germany's foremost 
painter, which was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum some years 
ago, and was hung in the National Gallery at Berlin, is now in the col 
lection of the Eben Jordan estate in Boston. 

In the summer of 1917, at the Denishawn DanceTheatre in Los 
Angeles, Miss St. Denis produced a nautch which lasted an entire 
evening and incorporated much material which before had been im 
practicable of inclusion when The Nautch was only one dance in a 
group of from five to eight numbers. The program of this nautch 
was as follows : 

An East Indian Nautch, Being the Dancing Entertainment pro vid- 
" ed by a Rajah for Distinguished Guests.The entrance of the Rajah 
" and his retinue.The arrival of the ruler of a nearby province.The fav- 
" ored dancer (Miss St. Denis) mounts upon her dais. The Dance of 
" Krishna (Mr.Shawn) and the Gopis. (Nautch dancing is always based 
" on the most profound themes. The Gopis typify humanity which 
" must be stripped of its materiality before it can approach the splendor 
" of the divine presence.) The Dance of Krishna and Rhadika. (Krishna 
" symbolizes the divine, and Rhadika the human, soul. Almost every 
" nautch dance consists of episodes of Krishna and Rhadika.) The 
" Rasmandalay. The Ranee and the holy man. A devidasi. The serving 
" of sweetmeats, betel nut, and sherbet. Secular dances: Egg Dance; 
" Dance with two drums. The Dance ofParvati, the favorite. Ensemble 
"and finale." 

In the Berkeley pageant, forty street nautch girls performed in the 
bazaar scene. 

4 2 



Just as when you hear "Camille," you immediately think "Bern- Ruth St. Denis 
hardt," so the American and European public will always associate Pioneer & Prophet 
"nautch" and "St. Denis," for it was she who brought the nautch 
dances to them in the manner of the artist. 



43 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER VII *> THE YOGI *> FIFTH DANCE IN THE 
Pioneer & Prophet EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE FOREST) 9* 

LfeeTheNdutch/TheYogialso was born inVienna.This dance marks 
the highest spiritual achievement of Ruth St. Denis. For in this dance, 
with the least movement or material aid, almost solely by sheer pro 
jected personality, she brought about in the mind of the beholder a 
consciousness of infinite peace and attainment. 

In the center of the forest is a clearing where the young Yogi has 
come to meditate; he has learned the postures of Yoga from his Guru, 
or spiritual teacher.These he performs; but there comes dissatisfac 
tion with the old ritual, and he yearns and searches for peace every 
where. Finding none, he sinks into despair and dejection.Thenfrom 
within comes the message, " I am Peace," and slowly he rises into 
Samadhi, or the perfect consciousness. This was a daring thing to put 
into a dance, and to expect the materially-minded public to accept. But 
so powerful was her concentration that by her mere "being there " she 
held the audience in breathless silence. 

Her costume was the conventional one of the Hindu pilgrim a 
dhoti, or loose loin cloth, the three strings of black beads, soft curly 
hair to the shoulders, and a begging-bowl. She sat on a tiger skin, 
and was lighted from above as by a shaft of sunlight finding its way 
through a tangled and all but impenetrable forest. 

44 



The Vienna Tagehlatt of February, 1908, reviewed the dance thus : Ruth St. Denis 
Like a being from another world she worships Nature, and what we Pioneer & Prophet 
" see her doing is highest art. We see movements and gestures that are 
" strangely touching.Their effect is indescribable, even as, for instance, 
" one cannot describe the way Duse walks.Through her mere * being 
" there ' Ruth St. Denis fascinates her audience; each dance is nothing 
" but a variation of her personality. So in this comparatively simple and 
" quiet scene she proved that first of all she is quite a singular and ex- 
" ceptional personality and only secondarily a dancer." 
And the Dresden Daily Record: 

The bending attitudes and expressive looks, the indescribably elo- 
" quent arm-gestures are so dignified, even sublime, that all idea of a 
" spedacle is excluded. The numerous audience was so impressed that 
" a spell of silence ensued before the applause broke out." 

The music of Walter Meyerowitz was exquisite in conception and 
original in execution.The scene opened with a voice off-stage singing 
the poignant song of the Yogi, the wailing, mournful cadenzas be 
coming somewhat more distind: as the Yogi entered.The main move 
ments were played by the orchestra, while a cellist, concealed on the 
stage,played a solo part during the moments of complete meditation. 
This was a dance which one would no more think of applauding 
than one would the High Requiem Mass of the Catholic Church 
a dance which takes its pkce in the great sacerdotal art of the world. 



45 




Ruth St.Denis CHAPTER VIII**THE LOTUS POND^SIXTH DANCE 
Pioneer & Prophet IN THE EAST INDIAN SERIES (THE GARDEN) 9 

The Lotus Pond was added to the original East Indian series after 
Ruth St. Denis returned to America, and was first performed in Bos 
ton, with music especially composed by Walter Meyerowitz.The de 
scription given in the Boston Tranjo^ January 7, 1910, in a review 
of its premiere is so complete that I shall use it: 

Insomeold-worldgarden,half-forgotten,inCashmere,fringedwith 
" high-trunked sandalwood, where the film of a sultry lotus pond mois- 
" tens the bank, lies Rani. You can hear the drone of many winged in- 
" seds, feel the lazy warmth of summer idleness, smell the heavy odors 
" of fragrant flowers. She pulls the white lotus from the mire, reaching 
" in indolent content, until her lap is filled with them.Then in sudden 
" caprice, perhaps impelled by the vision the water refleds, she dances 
" about the garden with a free, untrammeled motion. Her green veil 
" floats upon the slow breeze, the slanting sun-rays awake answering 
" lights in her yellow garments. Her slender, slippered feet move to 
" dreamy oriental cadence in image of her dreaming thoughts. As she 
" bends over the banks again, a bee flies from the heart of a lotus flow- 
" er, and becomes fast entangled in the meshes of her veil. At once the 
" tranquil mood vanishes. The music stings and buzzes in breathless 
" rhythms the garden wakes to quick- voiced life as Rani encircles it 



" with eluding tremor and fitful flight. Then, away in the distance, by Ruth St. Denis 

" some moss-grown gate or mouldering palace wall, she sees her belov- Pioneer & Prophet 

" ed. Love-joy transfixes her. She dances, twining the lotus in her hair 

" for sheer joy of his coming. And as the purple shadows of the dusk 

" gather, and the last gold shines full upon her, he comes to her, all un- 

" worthy of this glory that she would bestow. Such is the Indian garden 

" in Cashmere, where Rani lived. 

This dance lacks, on its first presentation, none of the artistry, the 
" rich imagination, and faultless technique, which distinguish Miss St. 
" Denis and her dancing. She sinks her identity in that of the dancer 
" and the dance. She is too great an artist, she has too much respedfor 
" her art, to intrude upon us petites cauteries or ill-timed personalities, 
" and the audience thereby finds greater pleasure in what she gives." 



47 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER DC ** THE EGYPTIAN SERIES ** 
Pioneer & Prophet Miss St. Denis's original Egypta, conceived in 1904, was, as has been 

said in chapter two, laid aside both because of supposed prohibitive 
cost of production and of her increasing preoccupation with Radha, 
and thus it was that the East Indian dances reached the public first. 

When Henry B.Harris asked a new production of Ruth St. Denis 
it was to Egypta that she reverted. By this time she had spent years of 
study on Egyptology, pursuing the subjed especially in London, at the 
British Museum, and with some of the famous Egyptologists she had 
met. That the production did not rank with her East Indian dances 
was due to the fad: that Mr. Harris allowed her only six weeks to put 
on these five dances, each as elaborate as a scene for opera. 

These were the first ancient Egyptian dances ever seen in America, 
and Ruth St. Denis is the dancer who originated the hieroglyphic 
type of movement that is,dancing imitating the postures of the fig 
ures carved on Egyptian temples and tombs.This style has been taken 
up by many lesser dancers, almost everyone of whom claims to have 
originated it. 

The five dances in the Egyptian series were Thelnvocation to theNile, 
The Palace Dance, The Veil oflsis, The Dance of Day, and The Dance 
ofNight. 

The Invocation to theNile: The scene is the large pylon of a temple, 



with steps leading down to the river. At the foot of the steps are clus- Ruth St. Denis 
ters of bulrush, lotus, and papyrus. It is dawn. Presently comes the Pioneer & Prophet 
sound of temple girls singing; they appear, bearing offerings in cele 
bration of the inundation of the Nile. Down the steps, between the 
two rows of singing girls, slowly dances the priestess,carrying two long 
garlands of lotus blossoms. She kneels at the river's edge, makes her 
obeisance to the rising sun, and then, after a brief prayer, takes from 
the priestesses the offerings,consisting of ducks, fruits, and other gifts 
of the Nile, and casts them into the waters. Then, kneeling low with 
her face almost touching the water, with arms outstretched, she be 
gins the dance of the Nile, imitating the rippling, rising motion of the 
inundating river. When she reaches her full height, she turns and, ac 
companied by the renewed singing of the priestesses, with arms fully 
extended, she slowly mounts the steps, signifying thus that she brings 
the fertility of the Nile at its flood into the temple. 

The Palace Dance: The scene is a banquet room in the palace of 
Pharaoh; the king and his wife, attended by about thirty notables of 
the court, are seated on the left, various distinguished guests on the 
right. The feast is in process; Nubian skves run about, bearing wine, 
fruits, and other viands. A ballet of eight appears and dances in the 
quaint, hieratic attitudes of Egyptian wall carvings. In the midst of 
the festivities appears the high priest of the temple, descanting on the 
brevity of life and urging all to be merry while they may, as the sar 
cophagus or the tomb awaits each one. He is followed by a huge Nu 
bian slave who drags on a gaily painted sled a mummy, to which the 
high priest frequently points. As this strange procession disappears, 
the kughter and chatter of the feast is renewed. And then come run 
ning into the center of the room four little musicians bearing harp, 
double pipe, lyre, and double tambourine. These instruments they 
proceed to tune and, seating themselves in correctly hieroglyphic atti- 

49 



Ruth St. Denis tudes,theyawait the entranceof the dancer.Then, before the two long 
Pioneer & Prophet Egyptian curtains hung at the back of the stage, appears the chief 

dancer of Pharaoh's court, who dances what later became known as 
The Palace. ., V 

This dance was of varyingmoods,but largely of quick movements- 
much more vigorous than those of any of the East Indian series.The 
a&ion, while natural and human and graceful in the extreme, con 
stantly fell into the hieroglyphic attitudes of the figures in Egyptian 
tomb paintings.The dance was a complete refutation of the critics who 
carped at the East Indian series the criticism that Ruth St. Denis did 
notdance,she merely posed. Here was adion enough to satisfy anyone. 

The costume worn in The Palace had the elaborate Egyptian col 
lar, arm-bands, jeweled girdle, and anklets. These, according to the 
paintings,constituted the complete costumeof court dancers, but such 
scantiness of apparel not yet being permissible, Ruth St. Denis added 
a full transparent skirt of Egyptian blue. She wore a brilliant red wig, 
braided into innumerable little braids, each ending in a gold bead. 
Over this, held by a jeweled band which played about her head as she 
danced, hung a fringe of gold, five inches wide. 

The Veil oflsis: As thecurtain rises, onebeholds the enormous pillars 
of a temple such as Karnak.These pillars,very wide toward the front 
of the stage, narrow one behind the other to the center back, where 
the throne of Isis stands in the gloom. On this throne sits the image 
of Isis covered by a long glistening veil.Two lights burn faintly at her 
feet. For the first few seconds complete silence, then the faint clink 
of the sistrum, and there enter six acolytes keeping measured step 
with the sistrum beatThey emerge from the shadows of the huge pil 
lars, advance to the altar, leave an offering of lights, and softly depart. 
Silence once more. Then the voice of the young high priest is heard 
chanting the praises of Isis. He has come to remind the serene god- 



dess of the devotion of her worshipers and to burn incense before her Ruth St. Denis 
in the long-handled incense cup. As he prostrates himself at her feet, Pioneer & Prophet 
a faint quiver of life goes through her body, and her chest heaves with 
a sigh. Lifting her right hand in hieratic gesture, she signifies her gra 
cious willingness to present herself to the people.The music changes, 
a soft beam of moonlight strikes her upturned face, and one catches 
a glimpse of her long, heavy-lashed eyes slowly opening beneath the 
shimmer of her golden veil. 

She steps from her throne and begins to dance. And her dance signi 
fies that to him of receptive heart she will raise the veil of her mystery 
that he may see that she is benign and beautiful in her intentions to 
ward all creatures. She advances down stage swaying slightly as, with 
both hands, she slowly raises the long veil above her head and throws 
it back, still attached to her high crown. The costume that is now re 
vealed is the straight slip of the ancient Egyptians, covered with bugles 
of green, blue, and gold. This hangs straight from shoulder to ankle 
and glistens like a great mystery. An elaborate collar of heavy gold 
beads lies on her shoulders, and rich arm-bands encircle her arms. Her 
body is wound with crossing gold bands, heavily jeweled. On her head 
is the tall crown of Isis with the moon disc set in the front, and from 
her brows rise the cow-horns of Hathor. As she advances, she slowly 
spreads from underneath her long veil the gold and black wings of 
Horus, the rising sun, symbolizing the promise and protection of the 
sun. Fora brief moment the poignant recollection of her wanderings 
in search of the body of Osiris overcomes her. As she recovers from 
this, she gives her last benediction to the people and, drawing her veil 
of mystery about her, slowly retires to the altar. 

The Dance of Day, or The Plains ofRa: This dance carried out Ruth 
St. Denis's original inspiration. In it Egypta the embodied spirit of 
Egypt depided the history and the religious beliefs of that country. 



Ruth St. Denis In The Book of the Dead among the hymns to the Sun is a most re- 
Pioneer & Prophet "markable one describing the beneficence of the sun and its power 
" to raise men upon their feet, cause the grasses and the food to grow, 
" and the animals to run about." This was the inspiration for much 
of The Dance of Day since, according to Egyptian tradition, the great 
father Ra, the Sun God, created the life and molded the history of 
Egypt. 

The scene is the Plains of Ra ; the peculiar blue of the Egyptian sky 
melts into the horizon which is vaguely defined by a series of rock pro 
files slightly higher on the sides but nowhere high enough to destroy 
the sense of unending space which pervades the scene. 

It is before dawn ; all is gray, and the soft costumes of the opening 
ballet symbolize the weaving mists of the Nile. In the dimness the 
dancers move to and fro with monotonous swaying step; some cir 
cling aimlessly, others dropping for a moment in groups where the 
mist is thickest. Presently from the east faint morning rays impercepti 
bly lighten the scene, and the faces of the dancers are discerned for the 
first time as they raise the gray mist veils and disclose in their costumes 
the answering colors of the dawn. As the sun's light increases, the 
mists melt and disappear, revealing at the extreme back of the stage 
a stone skb on which lies the sleeping figure of Egypt. As the first 
direcl: ray of the sun strikes the reclining figure, movement begins, 
signifying the life-giving quality of the sun; and then the figure of 
Egypta arises and facing the sun makes obeisance to its creator. In the 
dance that follows, the actions express the earliest known history of 
the Egyptians-first, the primitive industries : the plowing and cultivat 
ing of the soil, the care of sheep, the spearing of fish, the weaving of 
cloth; then come priesdyceremony,military discipline, and the estab 
lishment of the kingship; then the arts : architecture, dancing, music, 
painting, and sculpture. This latter period is broken into by invasion 

52 



and the bringing of Egypt under the yoke ; then comes an interlude Ruth St. Denis 
of hope and, finally, complete downfall and destruction. Pioneer & Prophet 

The lighting of the stage was symbolical of the periods of Egypt's 
day, noontide coinciding with her greatest glory, and night rinding 
her again supine on the slab while the mists once more shift back and 
forth. 

The costume, designed to be the simplest possible garb which 
would symbolize Egyptian dress, consisted of a white plaited robe and 
a black wig of traditional Egyptian cut, with band around the fore 
head. 

The Dance of Night, or The Hall of Judgment: It was a belief of the an 
cient Egyptians that every soul after death had to pass through the 
Judgment Hall and endure trial before the forty-two judges of the 
dead. If the soul justified itself before Osiris and the judges, it was 
permitted to enter the boat of Ra and was conveyed to the Abode 
of the Blessed, there to live with Ra in everlasting happiness. If the 
soul was found wanting, the Crocodile God lying in wait beside the 
judgment seat devoured the unworthy heart. 

The scene is the Judgment Hall of Osiris in the underworld, that 
region which was said to lie under the western horizon. The coloring 
is dull greenish-gray. The huge seated figure of Osiris is depicted 
center-back, and the forty-two judges, painted in profile, are ranged 
on either side. The whole gives a sense of great solemnity. The char 
acters in the dance-drama are Horus,who introduces the SouljThoth, 
the scribe; Anubis, who weighs the heart; and Sebek, the Crocodile 
God. Into this hall Horus ushers the Soul of Egypt. She wears a 
white wig and greenish-white, ghostly garments, and carries her red 
heart enclosed in ajar. She advances and prostrates herself at the feet 
of Osiris, giving her heart into the keeping of Horus, who in turn 
pkces it upon the scales. Before the ceremony of weighing, the Soul 

53 



Ruth St. Denis makes what was known as a negative confession that is, a declaration 
Pioneer & Prophet that it had not in life committed various specified sins. This ended, 

the Soul turns and anxiously watches the just weighing of the heart 
against the Feather of Truth. The attention of the entire assembkge, 
the stern regard of the forty-two judges, and the benign interest of 
Osiris is given to this operation. When the heart slowly rights itself 
upon being set free, and the scale balances, the Soul throws herself 
in gratitude at the feet of Osiris. When she rises, the scene behind 
the figure of Osiris a transparency is brilliantly lighted and shows 
the red boat of Ra against the enormous orange disc of the sun. The 
Soul, seeing this vision, passes through a small passage between the 
knees of the colossal statue of Amen-Ra and, ascending a few steps, 
takes her pkce triumphantly in the boat of Ra by whom she presendy 
will be conveyed to the Realm of the Justified. 

In the coast to coast tour which followed this production, Ruth St. 
Denis used The Palace Dance,The Dance of Day, and sometimes The 
Veil oflsis, in connection with the East Indian series. The entire Egyp 
tian section of the Berkeley pageant was ekborated from the original 
plan of The Dance of Day and The Hall of Judgment. 

After I had joined her company, Ruth St. Denis, having now for 
the first time a dancing partner, put into execution an idea she had 
long entertained for a dance of Isis and Osiris, through which ran as 
a motif the attitude of the Rebirth, as depided in The Book of the 
Dead. Added to this new feature was a ballet of my composition de 
signed for eight girls with the square tambourines and kter with the 
scarabeus wings. This we used for three tours and in the pageant at 
the Berkeley Greek Theatre. 

The music for the Egyptian series, also, was composed especially by 
Walter Meyerowitz,who composed the music for The Nautch,The 
Lotus Pond, and several other dances. Walter Meyerowitzwas first en- 

54 



gaged by Miss St. Denis as orchestra conductor and director of her Ruth St. Denis 
music during her first year in Germany and remained with her for Pioneer & Prophet 
over four years. During that time he was a tremendous help to her 
in all that concerned the musical background of her dancing. 



55 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER X V* O-MIKA *> A JAPANESE DANCE- 
Pioneer& Prophet PLAY** 

The Japanese dance-play O-mika was founded upon one of Laf- 

cadio Hearn's writings entitled A Legend ofFugen-Bosatsu. It is found 

in the volume Shadowings. For Miss St. Denis's purposes the story was 

put into condensed form, as indicated in the program which follows: 

O-mika, A Japanese Legend of the Buddha, in three scenes. The 

" story of a celebrated courtesan who became an incarnation of Fugen- 

" Bosatsu. 

In this Japanese legend Miss St. Denis will introduce The Dance 
" of the Flower-Arrangement, The Chrysanthemum Dance, The Dance of 
" the Thirteenth Century Poetess,The Samurai Dance,The Dance ofFugen- 
" Bosatsu. 

Cast: Shoku Shonin, BunlakuTokunaga; Kimura Hayato, Roi 
" Kojima; NakamuraYosake,MomotaroToyama; O-Yone,HanaYa- 
" mada; Samisen Pkyer, S. O. Hashi; Kamura,Theodora De Combe 
" and Regina Cipriano; Sake Girls, Elena Perry and Ruth Averill; 
" Coolies, O. Hashi and A.Oki; Samurai Sword Dancer, B. St. Denis; 
" O-mika, Ruth St. Denis. 

Music by Robert Hood Bowers. 

Scene I. The Vision of Shoku Shonin. Scene II. Within the Gates 
" of theYoshiwara. Scene III.TheYoshino-Ro (rooms of O-mika). 

56 



Argument : A very pious and learned priest named Shoku Shonin Ruth St. Denis 
" lived in the province of Harima. For many years he meditated daily Pioneer & Prophet 
" upon the lotos of the Good Law, and desired to see Fugen-Bosatsu 
" as a living presence. One evening while he was reciting the Sutra, 
" he fell asleep and in his dream a voice told him that in order to see 
" Fugen-Bosatsu he must go to the house of a certain courtesan known 
" as O-mika, who lived in the town of Kanzaki. Upon awakening, he 
" resolved to go at once to Kanzaki, and he reached the town the eve- 
" ning of the next day. 

When he entered the house of the courtesan, he found there two 
" Samurai, young men of the capital, who had been attracted to Kan- 
" zaki by the fame of the woman's beauty. They were feasting and 
" drinking, and O-mika was dancing for their entertainment. At the 
" end of the evening O-mika, about to offer her red kcquer saki cup 
" to her favored suitor, meets the eye of the priest whom she sees for 
" the first time. Immediately a change comes over the spirit of O-mika, 
" her outer robes, symbols of her gay life, drop from her, and she is 
" revealed as the living presence of Fugen-Bosatsu." 

The Japan Society of New York, soon after Miss St. Denis's en 
gagement at the Fulton Theatre, requested a special performance to 
be given exclusively to the members of their society. This took pkce 
in the Astor Hotel and the Japan Society officially proclaimed it the 
most artistic presentation of Japanese themes America had ever been 
privileged to see, and expressed a wish that Miss St. Denis might go 
to Japan to inspire the Japanese girls to return to the classic dance of 
their own country instead of taking up the tango. 
The Japanese Times in its review of the performance said: 
We have nothing but praise and admiration for the part this fa- 
" mous adress played. The grace of her movement, the delicacy of her 
" touch, the consummate skill she showed in mimicking different types 

57 



Ruth St. Denis w of Japanese womankind, and the refined taste she displayed through- 

Pioneer & Prophet " out the performance all enforced by the inborn beauty of the ac- 

" tress leave no room for her critic to venture any unfavorable com- 



"ment." 



The costuming, scenic effects, and properties of this production were 
extravagantly but correctly splendid. The appointments of all three 
scenes were absolutely authentic, and in many cases the articles used 
were not merely stage properties but genuinely Japanese. Because 
Miss St. Denis is "uncommon tall," it was necessary to have a Japa 
nese dressmaker make her kimonos to order of imported materials. 
Once when The Dance of the Flower-Arrangement was being given at 
Ravinia, a Japanese man-servant who was brought by his mistress to 
the performance, insisted that it could not be other than a Japanese 
woman who was dancing. Truly, her make-up was marvelous. The 
wig of the courtesan, with its ray of fourteen gorgeous hairpins, the 
dead-white face of mask-likequality,the lips so red, and glistening with 
powdered gold; last and especially, the exquisitely facile hands made 
her more truly the epitome of Japanese beauty than any real Japanese 
woman I have ever seen. She was Japanese, not in the grand opera 
manner of Madam Butterfly, but of the quality in an Utamaro print. 
Charles Darnton said : 

Her personality is as distinctive as it is elusive. Other stage ladies 
" may paint themselves black in the face without catching a trace of it. 
" It doesn't come by the box. Miss St. Denis may be equally proud 
" of her Japanese costumes, robes gorgeous beyond description and so 
" much a part of her that you readily conclude she must have dreamed 
" them. The most matter-of-fact spectator would be willing to swear 
" that this darling of the gods could have had nothing to do with a 
" dressmaker." 

Later, in concert tours, she performed a single Japanese dance called 



A Lady of the Genroko Period in which she appeared as a Japanese wo- Ruth St. Denis 
man at her toilette, and danced with two fans. Pioneer & Prophet 

It is interesting to note that the same season in New York which 
saw the first production of 0-mika saw also the first production of 
The Yellow Jacket.Tlit latter was to Chinese drama what 0-mika was 
to the Japanese. Like Ruth St. Denis's enterprise this failed financial 
ly, went for some years abroad and on tour, and like hers, too, later 
returned to New York to meet with great success. 

Pioneering in the Japanese even as she had pioneered in the East 
Indian and Egyptian dances, Ruth St. Denis brought to America 
our first authentic interpretation of Japanese art. And by the worth 
while people of New York 0-mika was hailed as the season's highest 
artistic achievement; from the standpoint of popular response it failed, 
for Ruth St. Denis in the world of the theatre holds very much the 
same pkce as Lafcadio Hearn in the world of books his works are 
always the delight of the discriminating and the lovers of the beauti- 
ful,but never among the best sellers. She has marked out many roads 
which others have followed, and a native Japanese dancer, Michio 
Ito, a few seasons ago found a readier response to his beautiful danc 
ing because she had pioneered and made the path easier before him. 
Caroline Caffin in her book Vaudeville writes : 
When first I heard that the subjed: of her ktest series was to be 
: ' Japanese, I was a little dubious. Had not the Japanese motive been 
" somewhat overdone? But when I saw its presentation I realized that 
" as yet we have but touched the border of poetic suggestion to be gath- 
" ered from that land of poetry and flowers. 

Her appearance in the street scene is not at all that of the conven- 
" tional * lady on the fan,' but had the boldly patterned refinement of 
" the old Japanese prints, with their flowing lines and richly sombre 
" coloring. 

59 



Ruth St.'Denis " How dashing and vigorous, with its free lithe strides and well poised 
Pioneer & Prophet " arms, was the spear exercise of the Samurai maiden, and how widely 
" different from the usual conception of the Japanese woman. Here 
" was no timidity or restraint, but breezy joyous exercise of boldness 
" and muscle woman's deftness and agility were matched with man's 
" strength and skill, and that without fear or favor. Do you think the 
:t Japanese woman is a pretty, submissive toy? Here is a refutation of 
" our theories, for this maiden will be able to take her own part if phys- 
" ical bravery is ever demanded of her. 

And the picture of The Poetess of the Thirteenth Century what a 
" true translation of the spirit of poetry and what a vision of other- 
" worldliness it was." 



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CHAPTER XI BAKAWALI s A HINDU LOVE 
TALE** 

Bakawali also was taken from the writings of Lafcadio Hearn. It 
is an adaptation of a story by that name found in Stray Leaves from 
Strange Literature. The program explains the action: 

Bakawali. A Hindu Love Tale of Indra's Heavenly Court In three 



scenes. 



Dance of the Gold and Black Sari, Dance of the Blue Flame, Jewel Dance 
Before the God of Heaven, Dance in the Forest of Ceylon. 

Cast: Yogi, Mogul Khan; Amaraou, Theodora De Combe; Ap- 
sarases, Elena Perry, Ruth Averill, and Regina Cipriano ; Devas, D. 
Crary,C.Dougallas,andC.Mado; Indra,RexTiffany;Taj Ulmuluk, 
Oswell Jackson; Bakawali, Ruth St. Denis. 

Music by Arthur Nevin. 

Scene I. A room in the palace of Prince Taj Ulmuluk. Scene II. 
Indra's Heavenly Court. Scene III. The Forest of Ceylon. (Twelve 
years elapse between Scenes II and III.) 

Argument: Bakawali, the favorite dancer of heaven, falls in love 
with a mortal youth. Leaving Indra's court, she descends to earth 
to remain with her lover. Indra, missing his favorite, sends his wind 
chariot to bring her back. Bakawali obeys the summons and leaves 
her lover, believing him asleep, but he, startled by her sudden depar- 

61 



Ruth St. Denis 
Pioneer & Prophet 



Ruth St. Denis" ture, hurries after her, clings to her chariot, and upon arriving at In- 
Pioneer & Prophet" clra's court, secretes himself behind a jeweled column. 

Bakawali timidly approaches Indra, hoping for his forgiveness, but 
" he sternly waves her back and commands that she be purified by 
" fire, for 'she has the odor of mortality about her.' The Devas drag 
" her to the fiery furnace, into which she is forced to descend. Emerging 
" from the furnace, she performs a dance before the court, at the end 
" of which she discovers her lover. Terrified by his presence, she begs 
" him to keep concealed until by another dance she can win Indra's per- 
" mission for them to depart to earth. Indra is charmed by the grace of 
" her dancing and promises her unlimited pardon and favor. Bakawali 
" then leads her lover to the foot of the throne and begs permission 
" to depart with him. Indra, surprised and angered, replies that for his 
" oath's sake he grants her wish, but he pronounces this curse: 'For 
" twelve years she shall be from waist to feet, of stone.' 

During these weary years Bakawali's lover feeds her upon the fruits 
" of the forest; at the end of this time she is released from the bondage 
" of the curse, and in an eloquent dance expresses her delight in being 
" once more restored to the joys of life." 

The scene of Indra's Heavenly Court was truly remarkable. It was 
a huge blue canvas cyclorama with an inner one of blue gauze, all 
lighted from below. Four huge jeweled pillars and Indra's throne 
rested upon a blue floor. The whole effed was of adion taking place 
in the heavens. 

Spoken words as well as dance and music were used to tell the story 
in both Bakawali and 0-mika; in the latter Miss St. Denis learned to 
speak her lines in Japanese. Much of Nevin's music for Bakawali was 
used for the East Indian dances in the pageant at Berkeley, and the 
Dance of the Blue Flame from Bakawali has many times been given 
separately. 

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CHAPTER XII J THE GARDEN OF KAMA *> Ruth St. Denis 

From a theme in the poems of Lawrence Hope, Ruth St. Denis ere- Pioneer & Prophet 
ated an East Indian dance-drama under the name of The Garden of 
Kama. Kama is the Indian Eros. 

The scene is the compound of a high caste East Indian dwelling. 
Walls of pierced and patterned marble open in the middle to show 
the roadway, beyond which glimmers the salt kgoon. In the garden 
is a well surrounded by grille- work walls, overhung by a blossoming 
tree; at the right of the well is a sort of thatched summer-house within 
which is a divan. At the left is the doorway of the dwelling. 

The scene opens at dawn ; a house servant is sleeping in the door 
way. Various women begin to arrive, coming to the well for water. 
A milk seller comes and wakes the servant. The village girls have to 
kens of love a flower, a note which they compare. Then comes the 
Daughter of the House (Ruth St. Denis) with offerings for the shrine 
of Kama. She sees the village girls and becomes sad when she realizes 
that she has no message of love.Then she dances to invoke the God 
of Love. 

Kama appears and sees first the village girls whom he inflames. He 
divests them of their saris, and, garbed in a reflection of his own cos 
tume, they dance at his bidding. In the midst of the dancing he sees 
the Daughter of the House who has been hiding, for now that Kama 

63 



Ruth St. Denis has adually appeared she is afraid. Kama tries eagerly to make an- 
Pioneer & Prophet other conquest but the maiden eludes him and flies into the house- 
not, however, until he has shot one of his flower-tipped arrows into 
her heartThen he vanishes into the air, devising a surer plan for her 
conquest. 

When Kama has departed the girls awake from their rose dream 
of love, resume their homely tasks, and journey on to the village. 
Now comes twilight.The Daughter of the House,finding at last that 
"there is no breeze to cool the heat of love,"comes into the garden, 
gorgeously bedecked for complete surrender. 

A group of fishermen comes down the road and she throws a scarlet 
ashoka flower at the feet of the youngest, who leaves his companions 
and lingers with her. She serves him with food, plays for him on her 
lute, and when a band of native musicians and dancers comes down 
the road they are called in and paid to amuse him.The fisherman and 
his love join in the dance. When dawn comes it finds them alone, and 
the fisherman rises and throws off the rags of his disguise. It is Kama, 
who never suffers defeat. 

The Garden of Kama was first produced in San Francisco where it 
ran for ten days at the AlcazarTheatre in the spring of ip^.The fol 
lowing season it was used in repertoire on the coast to coast tour. 

The scenes and costuming were greatly influenced by the illustra 
tions of Byam Shaw in the latest edition of Lawrence Hope's Indian 
Love Z/yna.The whole production was a splendid example of Miss St. 
Denis's incomparable ability to invest a scene with atmosphere every 
detail correct, and the ensemble harmoniously welded together into 
artistic unity. 




CHAPTER XIII s THE PEACOCK THE SPIRIT Ruth St. Denis 

OF THE SEA W KUAN- YIN ** THE ARABIC SUITE a* Pwneer 6 s Prop^ 
THE SCHERZO WALTZ *> AND OTHER 
SINGLE DANCES 

The Peacock had its beginning while Miss St. Denis was in London. 
The costume for it was almost finished but the dance was laid aside 
and did not receive its premiere until the summer of 1914 at Ravinia 
with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It remained for over a year 
one of Miss St. Denis's most popular solo dances and was then am 
plified into an entire scene with about ten people. This dance-drama 
was used in vaudeville during the season of 1915-1916, after which 
it was restored to its original condition. 

InThe Peacock Miss St. Denis created one of the most artistic dances 
of her career and one which everybody loved. This dance, especially 
in its original solo form, evinced again that remarkable ability of hers 
to mimic the movements of animals,which was first demonstrated in 
The Cobras. 

The dramatic story underlying the peacock dance is this : A peacock 
which inhabits the marble tombs of a Mohammedan cemetery was in 
a former incarnation a beautiful woman. She had been a poor girl in a 
Cashmere hill town, loved devotedly by a boy of her own caste. Butthe 
rajah, passing through with his retinue, saw her and took her to his 



Ruth St. Denis palace to dance for him. Urged then by ambition, she plotted to be- 
Pioneer & Prophet come the rajah's favorite,and by her superlative dancing she achieved 

this height. A ring taken from the deposed queen was given to her 
in a box of jewels with which she decked herself. The ring had been 
poisoned by the jealous queen, and her successor's joy is of short dura 
tionconvulsive death makes a sudden end to the grasping beauty. 
She is turned into a peacock. 

The scene is the courtyard of the tombs with the peacock strutting 
mournfully about. Suddenly it sees a bit of tiling in the walls bearing 
the crest of the rajah.This recalls to the peacock its former existence 
and as it gazes the courtyard is transformed into the throne-room of 
the palace and the peacock into a woman. At the point in the story 
where the woman dies, the throne-room vanishes and the solitary pea 
cock resumes its form and melancholy strut. 

The music for The Peacock was composed by Edmund Roth; it 
might properly be said to have been born of the dance, for the music 
wascomposed as Ruth StDenis executed her movements.Danceand 
accompaniment, each reflecting the rhythm and grace of the other, 
thus became a unity. 

The Spirit of the Sea is more elemental than anything else that Ruth 
St. Denis has done. She really achieves the sense of infinity, of vast- 
ness, the changing moods and the terrible rhythm of the sea. 

The costume was entirely of streaming green lengths of light silk 
that flowed out from her body to the extreme edges of the stage on all 
sides, the very handling of which was in itself a marvelous feat. Her 
own pure white hair suggested the foam of breakers. Her movements 
were uncanny in their power to give the feeling of majesty and end 
lessness. The music used was MacDowell's Sea Pieces. 

Kuan-Yin (the Chinese Goddess of Mercy) is a dance which Miss 
St. Denis used in vaudeville in the spring of 1917. It was so exquisite 

66 



a representation of Chinese porcelain that it must by no means be left Ruth St. Denis 
unmentioned.The dance was performed against a blue and gold back- Pioneer & Prophet 
ground, and was lighted solely by one strong spot-light suspended 
from above.The dancer's costume was of trailing chiffons, in cream, 
rose, and blue, with ornaments of Chinese yellow and jade. She held 
a blue lotus in her hands. The music was by Erik Satie. 

The Arabic Suite of Dances was kter called Ourieda, A Romance of the 
Desert. It was first merely a series of three dances two solos and a 
duet which Miss St. Denis and I gave at Ravinia in the summer of 
1914. In the fall itwas developed into a dance-drama, with two scenes. 

Ourieda was a girl of a tribe located in the north of Africa, theOuled 
Nails, who raise all their girl children to be professional dancers.These 
children when proficient are sold to the coffee-house proprietors to en 
tertain their patrons.Whenever a dancer pleases she is given a coin. 
This she sews on her costume, and when she has acquired sufficient 
of these she buys her freedom, returns to her own people, and spends 
the remainder of her days in peace. 

The first scene was performed entirely in silhouetteagainst the desert 
sky. I think I am not wrong when I state that we were the first danc 
ers to perform a whole dance in silhouette. The drama occupies it 
self with the love affair of Ourieda and a boy of her own tribe.The 
love is hopeless, for Ourieda knows she is soon to be sold into the 
city and the lover is too young and too poor to prevent it 

The next scene is laid in the interior of an Algerian coffee-house, 
supposedly some years kter. Arabs in white burnouses and turbans 
fill the cafe. Certain dancing girls are brought in to perform but they 
awaken no interest with their handkerchief dance.Then Ourieda 
comes, gorgeous and loaded with coins, and captivates the men who 
fill the room. One slave dealer bargains with the keeper of the coffee 
house and is about to buy her, when there enters the lover of her 

67 



Ruth St. Denis youth, now a man. He throws a purse to the inn-keeper and dismisses 
Pioneer & Prophet him, dances a sword dance for her admiration, and then, wrapping her 

in his burnouse, he leads her into the night to the tents of his people. 

Miss St. Denis again used the Ouled Nail dancer as a subjed in the 
spring of 1919 in vaudeville, this time in an entirely different set of 
dances depicting an Algerian scene and called The Street oftheDancers. 

The Scherzo Waltz- Ruth St. Denis became so wearied by the wise 
critics who said," Yes, beautiful,but she does not dance," that she cre 
ated The Scherzo Waltz in which she dances so freely and vigorously 
that even the baseball reporter sent to reviewthe performance was sat 
isfied. It gave her a whimsical pleasure to take the technical material 
of her old days, when to kick the back of one's head was the admired 
achievement, and fashion it into a real work of art. She improvised 
in this mood one night while McNair Ilgenfritz was at the piano 
in her studio, and he, inspired, composed The Scherzo Waltz. It was 
very rhythmic, major, full of humoresque phrasing, and entirely de 
lightful. Audiences which had been accustomed to the sinuous and 
"static" St. Denis, rose to their feet in instant response to this blithe, 
exquisite creature. She was costumed all in soft rose chiffon with rose 
satin girdle, and a turban of the same color over her snow-white hair. 

The St.Denis Mazurka. During three seasons of the St. Denis com 
pany concert tours a sedion of modern dances was included in the 
repertoire. Perhaps the most popular dance among these divertisse 
ments was The St. Denis Mazurka,which Miss St. Denis and I per 
formed to the music of La Czarine by Ganne. Miss St. Denis's cos 
tume was of purple and gold brocade trimmed with fiur. 

From a Grecian Vase. It was in the Greek sedion of the big pageant at 
Berkeley that Ruth St. Denis essayed her first Greek dances. With her 
incomparable artistry she became the very incarnation of the vase fig- 
ures.The sweet womanly dignity, the formal and classic plaited garb, 

68 



added to her own matchless grace, showed that she could excel in this Ruth St. Denis 
field as well as in the Oriental. She danced in two styles : in the Ar- Pioneer & Prophet 
chaic, of the earliest Greek period, and the Lyric, of the Golden Age. 
The latter dance was accompanied by a Chopin Prelude. Both dances 
were taken into vaudeville. 

The Impromptu was generally used as an encore to The Scherzo Waltz. 
It was danced to Victor Herbert's Al Fresco and had a negroid trend 
in the steps, which were never twice the same. She mimicked in it a 
young awkward girl with ambitions to be a"classic"dancer and often 
burlesqued the dances which her company had been doing.This dance 
I never missed ; its infinite variety, its irresistible humor always fasci 
nated me.The rest of the company said it was as amusing to watch 
me, as I watched her, as it was to view the dance itself so absorbed 
was I. Ruth St. Denis could undoubtedly have been a great comedi 
enne had her career been set in that direction. It was this dance, she 
affirms, and not " high art," which used to fill Ravinia. Possibly it may 
have been The Impromptu which reached the hearts of the spectators 
after they had come, but it was the years of unremitting consecration 
to high artistic ideals, resulting in an enviable reputation and a great 
name, which brought them there. 

Theodora, Empress ofByzantium.The character of the circus-dancer 
empress made a fascinating theme in the hands of Ruth St. Denis. 
Theodora, descending from her ivory throne in the audience cham 
ber with its mosaic walls, dances in incredibly gorgeous robes for her 
court. The Emperor Justinian arrives, is greeted, and mounts to the 
throne beside her. 

With her usual correctness of detail Ruth St. Denis created aTheo- 
dora which might have been some mosaic of Ravenna come to life. 
Her great robe was of orchid-colored satin brocaded in silver and gold, 
heavily encrusted with jewels and further embellished with a cape-like 

69 



Ruth St. Denis collar of solid pearls.The dancing dress was of cardinal red with panels 
Pioneer & Prophet front and back of jeweled gold.The scene was designed by Maxwell 

Armfield. 

The Greek VeilPlastique was composed by Ruth St. Denis especially 
for the production of Gluck's opera Orpheus given at the Berkeley 
GreekTheatre in the summer of 1 9 1 S.The costume was of white, sten 
ciled in black, and there was a voluminous circular veil, also of white, 
patterned in blacLThe music of this dance is the flute solo selection 
so well known, and the dance though it was described by a layman 
as "just walking around" was considered by dancers, artists, and 
critics as a triumph. Only the greatest can achieve complete simplic 
ity convincingly. 

The Royal Siamese Ballet. While in Paris years ago, Ruth St. Denis 
saw the original Royal Siamese Ballet sent by the Sultan of Siam as a 
courtesy to the French government. In the spring of 1918 she pre 
sented a solo Siamese dance and by the following year had developed 
it into a complete balletThe story underlying all Siamese dancing is 
the great epic story of the Ramayana the abduction of Sita by Ravan 
and her rescue by Rama and his cohorts, assisted by Hanuman, the 
Monkey God.This ballet was one of the finest pieces of dance- writ 
ing Ruth St. Denis has achieved. 



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CHAPTER XIV a* A DANCE PAGEANT OF EGYPT, Ruth St. Denis 
GREECE, AND INDIA 9# Pioneer & Prophet 

Early in the summer of 1916 the University of California issued the 
following announcement: 

For the first time in its history, a dancer has been invited to give a 
performance in the GreekTheatre, and the comments of the press of 
the country indicate that the honor was fittingly bestowed on Miss 
Ruth St. Denis, for she is generally recognized not only as a dancer 
of marked individuality and ability, but as a creative artist, who has 
marked out many roads that others have followed." 

In this country where money can do so much, this was indeed a great 
honor,for the GreekTheatre of the University of California,at Berke 
ley, cannot be bought. Even the Metropolitan Opera House is at the 
disposal of anyone who can pay the rental price. But the GreekThe 
atre remains an institution of great dignity in the theatrical world, and 
the official stamp of its approval has been placed only on Sarah Bern- 
hardt, Maude Adams, Margaret Anglin, and a very few others of the 
superlatively great. On July 29, 1916, accordingly, Miss Ruth St. 
Denis,Ted Shawn, and a company of one hundred dancers present 
ed A Dance Pageant of Egypt, Greece, and India. 

The adion of the pageant was divided into three main episodes, a 
scene for each of the three different peoples portrayed. Each episode 



Ruth St. Denis had two sedions, one devoted to the pursuits and customs during life, 
Pioneer & Prophet and the other to the beliefs concerning an after life. 

The synopsis of the pageant read: 
" I. EGYPT. 

The inundation of the Nile created a fertile land for the primitive 
" people to tilLThen came the shepherds, and from wool women wove 
" garments.The men speared fish for food. Religion was developed, a 
" priesthood organized, and a theology introduced. Growing in power, 
" Egypt raised great armies.The Pharaoh of the Lower Land appears 
" in an Osirian ceremonial. The Queen of the Upper Land, Ethiopia, 
" arrives with her retinue, bearing gifts, and dances before him; and he 
" seats her on the throne by his side.The United Egypt is now at the 
" zenith of its power and glory. Musicians and dancers amuse the court. 

' Then comes the invasion, personified by Set, the God of Evil. Pha- 
" raoh is slain by Set, and the army put to routThe Queen, depiding 
" Egypt in bondage, staggers under the yoke pkced upon her by Set. 

' The country mourns.There is one flash of hope but it dies out, and 
" magnificent old Egypt crumbles away. 

The Soul of Egypt wends its way to the Hall of Judgment to appear 
" before the judges of the dead. Horus challenges the Soul, who makes 
" the Negative Confession. Horus places the jug containing the heart 
" upon the scale, and Anubis weighs it against the Feather of Truth. 

' The scribe stands by to record the result. Were the Soul found want- 
" ing, the Crocodile God awaits to devour the heart. The portals open 
" and the GreatTriad Isis, Osiris, and Nephthys are seen. Osiris ac- 
" cepts the Soul, who arises into the Realm of the Justified.The cere- 
" monial dance of the Rebirth follows. 
" II. GREECE. 

On one side is a kdy with her maids at toilette ; on the other, a group 
" of youths studying philosophy; in the center a group of dancers with 

7 2 



" musical instruments. The girls dance; the kdy arranges her veil and Ruth St. Denis 
" departs. Then youths training for the Olympic games dance ThePyr- Pioneer & Prophet 
"rhic Dance. 

A feast, an offering to Bacchus, follows.The guests are served with 
" wine and food.The host and his favorite hetaira dance.The hetaira 
" crowns the host with ivy, and he is hailed as an incarnation of Bac- 
" chus. The feast degenerates into a wild orgy and ends in complete 
" abasement, 

" In gloomy Hades, Pluto sits brooding on his sable throne. Eurydice 
" crouches at his feet while the shades move in helpless yearning. Or- 
" pheus pkys his lyre so winningly that Pluto consents to the return of 
" his love, Eurydice, to the Upper World, under the guidance of Her- 
" mes. Orpheus precedes them. He has been ordered not to look back, 
" but his love and fear get the better of him and he disobeys. At once 
" Eurydice is whisked back to Pluto, and all is as before. Persephone 
" and her maidens of Springtime and Fertility visit Hades, bringing 
" light, color, and revelry. But soon she rushes with her companions 
" back to the Upper World and gloom reigns again. 
" III. INDIA. 

" On the banks of the Ganges early in the morning are seen the burn- 
" ing ghat and its tender.The women of the village come to fill their 
"lotahs and wash their saris. AHindu woman enters with her husband, 
" who is on his way to the hunt. His companions arrive and together 
" they dance a hunting dance before departing. She performs ablu- 
" tions and attends to her household duties. When the day has passed 
" through the hot siesta period, two of her friends appear with bad tid- 
" ings: her husband has been killed while saving one of his compan- 
" ions from a tiger. His fellows appear bearing his body which is pkced 
" on the pyre. As the fire mounts, the widow ascends the pyre and per- 
" forms die ancient rite of suttee. 

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Ruth St. Denis " In India they believe in many lives on this earth before the final 
Pioneer & Prophet " merging into Nirvana.The scene in which the man and woman of 
" the first episode appear again, in their next incarnation, is a bazaar 
" with merchants selling their wares, and fakirs,fortune tellers, and jug- 
" glers going about among the squabbling,chattering women. Asnake- 
" charmer appears with his baskets of cobras and entertains the crowd. 
" Nautch girls dance and beg for coins. AYogi appears with his chela, 
" seats himself on a tiger skin, and is soon lost in deep meditation.The 
" priests enter from the temple; incense bearers dance before the re- 
" vealed figure of Siva, and are followed by the Devidassis,or temple 
" maidens. Afamous beauty, who has had many conquests butlongs for 
" something higher, appears with her retinue. Having made her puja, 
" she sees theYogi. She tries to tempt him by her dancing, but so pro- 
" found is his abstraction that he does not notice her until she falls at 
" his feet.Then he recognizes in her the wife of his former incarnation, 
" and sees the yearning for real peace beneath her frivolous exterior. 
" He commands her to renounce all her possessions. She dismisses her 
" retinue, bids the crowds disperse, and soon they are alone. Stripped of 
" her gaudy finery, she prostrates herself in the agony of the Spirit war- 
" ring with the Flesh.Then comes the Yogi's song of peace, and around 
" her neck he places the black beads of Yoga.. As she arises he points 
" upward, and there comes to her a vision of the peace and beauty of 
" the Himalayas typifying the attainment of Samadhi." 

An orchestra of sixty pieces was conducted by Mr.Louis Horst.The 

costumes, properties, and effeds for the entire pageant were worked 

out at Denishawn by the students from designs made by Miss St. 

Denis or myself. 
One of the most interesting reviews of the performance appeared in 

the Argonaut, a San Francisco magazine: 
The stage of the Greek Theatre always seems to put itself in cotn- 

74 



" plete harmony with whatever is presented there that is tasteful and Ruth St. Denis 

" beautiful. Its massive yet graceful simplicity made of it a most sug- Pioneer & Prophet 

" gestive and beautiful background to the calm reposefulness of the 

" Egyptian idea, to the lavish, Oriental decorativeness of the pidure of 

" India, and to both the scene representing a Bacchanalian orgy and 

" the one depiding the region of the Plutonian shades visited by the 

" Greeks. The stage pictures presented were so lavish in appointment, 

" so tasteful and beautiful both in detail and general effed, that it was 

" very plain that the inceptionand the working outof thewhole scheme 

" was a labor of love. A kbor it was and an expense, for there was an 

" enormous number of props, scores of beautiful costumes, rugs, drap- 

" cries, vases, vessels, and armor; so indicative was the whole affair of 

" an expenditure of time, kbor, and money, that one felt that Miss St. 

" Denis had been worked up to a high degree of artistic enthusiasm, 

" and in the matter of expense had cried/ Begone, dull Care.' 

In an entertainment so prodigal in splendor it is difficult to seled 
" parts for special praise. Perhaps one of the most imposing stage pic- 
" tures was that of the Egyptian Hall of Judgment, with the trio of 
" Gods seen in the illuminated shrine to which led the great central 
" door. A peculiarly beautiful effed was attained by pkcing the blue 
" clad figures of certain personages in the scene, presumably the judges 
" of the dead, upon the ledge of the lower cornice, their bkck and yel- 
" low wings extending against the stone background, giving a strongly 
" Egyptian suggestion reminiscent of coundess pidures illustrative of 
" ancient Egyptian art. And yet, in all the multiplicity of richly diver- 
" sified tableaux, one of the strongest impressions left upon the mind 
" was that of the simplest pidure typical of pastoral Egypt, in which 
" Miss St. Denis and Mr. Shawn represented a primitive pair of Egyp- 
" tian mates kboriously tilling the soil for a bare sustenance. 

Miss St. Denis and Mr. Shawn gave many beautiful dances dig- 

75 



Ruth St. Denis" nified by historic idea and deeply stamped with poetic and aesthetic 
Pioneer & Prophet" suggestion. The pupils of Denishawn distinguished themselves by 
" agility, precision, and grace. Freedom of movement and a graceful 
" unconsciousness of the body have apparently been sedulously incul- 
" cated, and the results are particularly marked in the young men, who, 
" renouncing the usual masculine insensibility to self-culture, have ap- 
" parendy entered with enthusiasm into this revived cult of the body's 
" grace. Their success was particularly evident in The Pyrrhic Dance 
" which earned a special acknowledgment from the audience. 

One of the most admired features was The Dance of Persephone and 
" her Maidens with Ruth St. Denis fluttering in gauzy rose color as the 
" inspired center of the dance. 

And each of the three presentations closed with a depidion of the 
" religious idea, thus blending in each, national character, national pur- 
" suits, and national religion." 

Harrison Danforth in the Oakland Tribune makes a pertinent re 
mark at the close of his long eulogy of the pageant : 

Why for so many years dancing has been kept apart from the Greek 
' Theatre cannot be understood from last night's success. Yet it is 
" simple to cry hail to achievement. There was more bravery before the 
" fad, and its credit has been roundly deserved by Ruth St.Denis,Ted 
" Shawn, and Professor William Dallam Armes of the theatre man- 
" agement who was the first to devise the adventure. The Greek The- 
" atre has evolved sufferances and taboos which are not always easy to 
" explain. It is gratifying now to have the dance transferred from the 
" latter to the former class." 

Indeed the pageant was made possible by Professor Armes, diredor 
of the GreekTheatre at Berkeley, through whom the invitation came. 

His constant thought and assistance through the whole period of 
preparation and rehearsing had a great deal to do with the ultimate 

76 



success of the pageant. As Professor Armes was a keen critic in mat- Ruth St. Denis 
ters pertaining to the stage and its people, to be an objed: of his choice Pioneer & Prophet 
was of itself an achievement, even without the approval of the Uni 
versity of California which ky behind him. 

The pageant was repeated August 5 at the San Diego Exposition, 
and so great was the demand for seats that even the huge Organ Pa 
vilion which was used as a setting for the dances was not large enough 
to accommodate the crowds and many had to be turned away. On 
September 15, after desperately trying to find some adequate open 
air space in or near Los Angeles, we were forced to give the pageant 
indoors, at the Shrine Auditorium, where the audience was limited 
to four thousand people. 

C. L. Carpenter in a review in Prometheus, the organ of the Greeks 
in America, seemed to catch the very essence of the underlying prin 
ciples of this production : 

One may speak of the beauty of the dancing of this girted couple 
"these true comrades in their chosen field may enlarge upon the 
" wealth of scenic effedts they produce but this is not enough nor 
" the truth wholly because behind their work lies that feeling, that 
" power of radiation, which alone marks the work of the true artist. 
' There are two very notable features in the efforts of Ruth St. Denis 
" and Ted Shawn the first is purity, and I use that word in its spiritual 
" sense and secondly, freedom. No performer can send out to an audi- 
" ence the sense of spiritual purity as if the dance were a ceremony a 
" rite unless the dancer has the spiritual sense developed within; nor 
" can dancers in particular move and pose in a manner that makes the 
" audience 'feel' that it is all the easiest thing in the world to do, unless 
" their minds and souls are free. No one whose mind is clogged with 
" material thoughts and ideas or whose soul is heavy with the sleep 
" of grossness can so order the movements of the body that the impres- 

77 



Ruth St. Denis " sion of lightness freedom ease and grace is true and strong. If one 
Pioneer & Prophet" will give a careful study to the work of these two people he will find 
" that he is driven back to these conclusions that they each possess 
" this ideal of purity of purpose, this perfed: freedom of mind and soul, 
" and that they put into their work that essence of themselves which 
" gives them the right to sanctify that which they do by the sacred name 
"of Art." 



r 




CHAPTER XV ** SOME PERFORMANCES OF SPECIAL Ruth St. Denis 
INTEREST ** Pioneer & Prophet 

Perhaps more than any other artist of this generation Ruth St. 
Denis has through her dances participated in interesting and bril 
liant society events. In the very beginning of her career as a dancer of 
Oriental themes she performed at the entertainments of Mrs. Stuy- 
vesant Fish in New York, for Mrs. Alice Barney in Washington, and 
for Mrs. Jack Gardner in Boston. 

On July 20, 1906, she danced before Edward VII when that king 
with an exclusive party was being entertained by the Duchess of Man 
chester. She danced also in the studio of Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema. 

In the following year while in Germany Miss St. Denis received a 
command to dance at a performance given for the Duke of Saxe- 
Coburg which was attended entirely by royalty. In Vienna a similar 
performance for the Princess Kinsky gathered together the nobility 
of the Austrian capital. 

OnNovember 24, ipoyjMariano Fortuny opened his studio in Ber 
lin and displayed the marvelous hand-wrought veils from the Cretan 
city of Knossos. Ruth St. Denis danced in these veils and received 
two of them signed by Fortuny as a tribute. 

On November 26, 1908, near the close of her season at the Scala in 
London,Ruth St. Denis gave amidnight gala performance arranged 

79 



Ruth St. Denis chiefly for the many artists of the theatre who had wanted to see her 
Pioneer & Prophet dance and had been prevented by their theatrical duties. In addition 

to the East Indian series, she presented for the first time on any Amer 
ican or European stage, an esthetic Japanese dance. She called this 
added feature A Shirabyoshi', the program follows: 
A SHIRABYOSHI. 

An episode taken from a story by Lafcadio Hearn of a shirabyoshi, 
" a dancing girl of ancient times. 

It is one of the beliefs of the Japanese that the spirits of the dead are 
" ever present, and that their hearts are gkddened by offerings of love 
" and worship which are laid before the ihai, or mortuary tablet, which 
" keeps in memory the honored dead. 

This shirabyoshi brought offerings and danced before the tablet 
" of her dead lover in the room where it had once been his greatest 
" pleasure to see her dance. 

The sudden brightening of the little lamp before the tablet is taken 
" by her as a sign that his spirit is satisfied with her devotion." 

One of the most brilliant of audiences attended this performance, 
a few among the many distinguished spectators being Prince Francis 
of Teckjthe Duchess of Manchester, Sir Laurence and Lady Alma- 
Tadema, Auguste Rodin, Baron and Baroness de Meyer, Sir Beer- 
bohm Tree, Marie Tempest, Forbes-Robertson, Walter Crane, James 
M. Barrie,the Maharajah of KuchBehar,the Earl of Craven, George 
Bernard Shaw, Sir Charles Wyndham, and the Earl of Dunraven. 

On May 30, 1909, in the garden of Dr. Ludwig Mond in St. John's 
Wood, London, three dances were given by Ruth St. Denis which 
she had created for that occasion: The Dance ofjephthah's Daughter, 
In a Greek Grove, and An American Cake Walk. Dr. Mond was enter 
taining some of the famous scientists of the world then attending 
the Seventh International Congress of Applied Chemistry. 
80 



A few months after returning to America Ruth St. Denis went to Ruth St. Denis 
Chicago where she was the special feature at the most brilliant ball in Pioneer & Prophet 
Chicago's social history, the charity ball given December 15, 1909, 
with Mrs. Potter Palmer as the leading patroness. Also the same sea 
son Mrs. Marshall Field entertained the French and Russian ambas 
sadors and their wives at Washington with Miss St. Denis's dancing, 
and one of the most talked-of affairs in Philadelphia was the occa 
sion when she danced for the Wideners. 

Toward the end of the long coast to coast tour, on April 7, 1911, 
Miss St. Denis appeared at the housewarming of the wonderful East 
Indian home of Mrs. Frank C. Havens in Piedmont, California. A 
niche built into one end of a huge room was just the right size for 
the temple scene and was used for the goddess in the performance of 
Radha. 

In December, 1912, at the Waldorf in New York, in a Saxon fete 
given by the MacDowell Club, Miss St. Denis created a Norse dance, 
The Vision of Odin. 

When Mrs. Philip Lydig gave the marvelous performance of 'Judith 
at her home in New York, with Madame Yorska as Judith and M. 
de Max as Holofernes, it was Ruth St. Denis who was " the dancer." 

The following month a ball was given which ranks in the annals 
of Gotham society with the famous Bradley-Martin ball of thirty odd 
years ago. This was the Egyptian fete in the studios of Louis Tiffany. 
During the pageant in this ball, so marvelously produced by Joseph 
Lindon Smith, Hedwig Reicher playing Cleopatra to Pedro de Cor 
doba's Antony, Ruth St. Denis was carried inside a rug by four stal 
wart Nubians to dance for the Nile Queen. She gave her famous 
Palace Dance in a flesh-brown, tight net slip and wore a short, square- 
cut Egyptian wig. 

March 26, 1913, the Japan Society made a special occasion by tak- 

81 



Ruth St. Denis ing the ballroom of the Astor Hotel and having Miss St. Denis pre- 
Pioneer & Prophet sent 0-mika, her Japanese play which had just opened at the Fulton 

Theatre. The entire membership of the Japan Society was present. 

In November, 1913, Miss St. Denis was requested to come to St. 
Louis and give a special performance with the St. Louis Symphony 
Orchestra. About this time when Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was con 
fined to her room at the McAlpin, many of the leading progressive 
women of New York joined together to present for her entertain 
ment an impromptu vaudeville performance. Dr. Shaw spoke with 
particular praise of the dancing of Miss St. Denis. Indeed, she so 
appreciated it that a year kter, when making a whirlwind suffrage 
campaign tour, she nearly missed a train in Omaha where she was 
speaking and Miss St. Denis was dancing because she visited the 
latter's dressing-room. 

During the summers of 1913 and 1914 Ruth St. Denis gave several 
open air performances in the Greek theatre of Marcia Leonard at Mt. 
Kisco,NewYork; at Bar Harbor, Maine,where she was accompanied 
by Ethel Leginska ; and at the Schenley lawn in Pittsburg with the 
Pittsburg Festival Orchestra. 

Among other interesting things which Miss St. Denis did at Mt. 
Kisco the second summer was to translate Tagore's Chitra into a series 
of delightful dances. 

In the spring of 1916 at the Century Opera House in New York, 
when the foremost representatives of the American stage were called 
upon to contribute to theWilliamWinterTestimonial,Ruth StDenis, 
as the greatest American dancer, performed^ adha almost ten years 
to the very day since she had first presented it in the face of so many 
difficulties. 

At the Krotona Theosophical Institute in Hollywood, California, 
was presented a dramatization of The Light of Asia. It was produced 

82 



in the open air with a beautiful house of Tunisian architecture as a Ruth St. Denis 
background. The production ran for five weeks, commencing June Pioneer & Prophet 
29, 1918, and was counted so great a success that a permanent organ 
ization, the Theatre Arts Alliance, has grown out of it. The Light of 
Asia was produced by Mrs. Yorke Stevenson of Philadelphia, with 
Walter Hampden as the Buddha. Ruth St. Denis herself danced 
The Vision ofYashodara and with the Denishawn dancers presented 
the Temptation Scene. It was a production of unforgettable beauty. 

As Ruth St. Denis appeared in The Light of Asia only two nights 
a week, she was able during that time to journey to Berkeley to par 
ticipate in SteindorfPs production of Gluck's opera Orpheus at the 
Greek Theatre on July 27. The Christian Science Monitor in its review 
of this performance said : 

Her dance was a series of plastic postures, conceived in a beautifully 
" chaste spirit and executed with exquisite grace a disembodied dance 
" it was, that carried the idea of a rite in its noble measures." 

The performance was repeated August n at the Tivoli Opera 
House in San Francisco. 

Her latest and most remarkable achievement is to score as great a 
success in emotional acting as she always did in dancing. The pky 
Miriam, Sister of Moses, was written especially for Ruth St. Denis by 
Constance Smedley and Maxwell Armfield. It was produced by Sam 
uel J. Hume on the nights of August i and 2 of 1919. The pky dealt 
with the epic story of the leading of the Children of Israel out of 
Egypt, with Miriam's jealousy of the Midianitish wife of Moses, her 
leprosy and its healing. The drama was as heroic in scope as a Greek 
tragedy and the part of Miriam was one which even a Bernhardt 
would find difficult. I, against my wishes, was cast in the part of Moses, 
in which I proved unsatisfactory, but as I also created the dances and 
trained the ballets I was somewhat recompensed by the success of 

83 



Ruth St. Denis this element of the production. As to the sensational revelation of 
Pioneer & Prophet dramatic power on the part of Miss St. Denis, let me quote from the 

Christian Science Monitor of August 12, 1919 : 

For two nights Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and their company 
" have brought to the Greek Theatre interested multitudes to see them 
" in the Biblical play, Miriam, Sister of Moses. 

Miss St. Denis proved herself an artist, an adress as interesting, 
" perhaps, as any who have appeared on the classic stage of Berkeley's 
" outdoor theatre. She is gifted with a voice of unusual quality and a 
" superbly responsive physique.The present writer, watching her,could 
" not remember having seen half a dozen of the leading adresses of 
" America or indeed of Europe who could surpass her in natural grace 
" or individual appeal. Her performance was a revelation. It had been 
" said that Miss St. Denis was too ambitious that the GreekTheatre 
" demanded more than simply a dancer, no matter how great, could 
" give. But now the question is, What next? There is unlimited mate- 
" rial for her powers and we hope to see her soon in other vehicles for 
"her talents." 

Also Frederic McConnell, assistant diredor of the GreekTheatre, 
in 'The Drama of December, 1919, writes : 

Popular interest had been aroused in the fad that Miss St. Denis, 
" in playing the part of Miriam, was assuming an ading role of major 
" proportions for the first time in many years. Curiosity was dispelled 
" by admiration for a brilliant and accomplished performance. Stu- 
" dents of ading had much to learn from Miss St. Denis. Ading as an 
" art had much to gain from dancing as an art. For many people Miss 
" St. Denis exhibited for the first time the subtle synthesis which exists 
" between ading and dancing. Upon her work as an adress she brought 
" to bear the pressure of her dancing technique. In countless places 
" throughout a long and tedious part she fused a fine rhythmic sense, 



" expressing herself through an exquisite movement of body, where Ruth St. Denis 

" she could summon neither words nor music. Sheer beauty was fused Pioneer & Prophet 

" into speech because of the grace of movement that accompanied it 

" Emotion found translation not in pantomime, but in a vast rhythmic 

" understanding of human feeling. Miss St. Denis can remain still and 

" recite and yet not be static. The pulse within her is a true and regular 

" force,operating with or without the guidance of the music beat. More- 

" over, she has a voice of intrinsic merit, and diction that is clear. These 

" qualities, together with the attribute of intelligence, open up to her 

" the field of ading and give assurance of success therein." 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER XVI *> DENISHAWN, THE RUTH 
Pioneer & Prophet ST.DENIS AND TED SHAWN SCHOOL OF DANCING 

AND RELATED ARTS 9* 

The words "classic" and "interpretive" have been so indiscrim 
inately applied for the last ten years to every chiffon-clad, bare-footed 
dancer, regardless of the fad: that many of these dancers manifestly 
were neither "classic" nor "interpretive," that the words seem to 
have lost somewhat of their original value. Many personalities have 
turned the light on various sides of this modern movement; yet all 
these dance expressions of the past decade have been part of one 
great wave, which plainly demands to be more adequately named. 
Personally, I think we should call this school of free individual danc 
ing which has grown up among us " The American Dance," regard 
less of the personal sources from which it has developed. 

The spirit of the aspiring youth of America is not amenable to the 
arduous and irksome requirements of the classic ballet, the old school 
of the dance as evolved in Italy and France and developed in Russia. 
Nor is the American artist satisfied with the result of such training, 
for it didates that achievement shall be patterned after the triumphs 
of the past and is therefore felt as stifling to individual expression. 

It was in answer to the need for a freer and more flexible method 
of instruction in the dance that we founded Denishawn at Los An- 

86 



geles,California, nearly five years ago. That there existed a great need Ruth St. Denis 
for such a school of the dance is proved by the number of young Pioneer & Prophet 
dancers who flocked to us, and many of the prominent members of 
the younger generation of dancers received their training either at 
Denishawn or in the Ruth St. Denis company. 

The original Denishawn building where we opened our school in 
1915 was located in the heart of Los Angeles but was situated on the 
top of a hill so completely surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees that 
once you were within the grounds you had a sense of complete iso 
lation. It was formerly the home of a southern California architect, 
was built in modified Spanish style, and had about half a block of 
grounds. There was a large outdoor swimming pool, and a number 
of beautiful peacocks. The big classroom was out under the trees, 
and by far the greater part of the work took place in the open air on 
a smooth floor which could be protected by canopies when necessary. 
It was equipped with mirrors to aid in practice and had at one side 
an arbor for the musicians. 

In two seasons we outgrew this pkce and moved into larger quar 
ters, comprising four buildings: dormitories, studios, practice rooms, 
craft shop, and an open air classroom and dance-theatre. In this thea 
tre work of pupils was presented and we tried out our own new ideas. 

The girls of Denishawn wore as a uniform during all classes a one 
piece bathing suit of khaki color, and were subjected to a routine of 
technical training as severe as any military discipline. In private les 
sons individuality of costume and dance was developed. 

In spite of the war which was disastrous to so many artistic enter 
prises the school grew, and after two more years even the krger quar 
ters were found inadequate. To go on enlarging in rented buildings 
anderectingtemporarystructures onrented ground was too expensive 
and too unsatisfactory a plan for us to pursue further. Also we had 

87 



Ruth St. Denis attained in the four years of running a school a clearer conception of 
Pioneer & Prophet what we really wanted Denishawn to be. So we closed the school com 
pletely in order to give ourselves time and opportunity to refound a 
greater Denishawn on a lasting foundation both material and ideal. 
The plans of this new organization and the choosing of the land upon 
which the buildings will be built are now occupying our time and at 
tention. 

The system of training at Denishawn is, paradoxically speaking, 
to have no system. We believe that to be one's best self is better than 
to achieve the cleverest imitation of some one else, and on this simple 
basis Denishawn rests. The development of the individual is placed 
first and foremost. It is no part of our ambition to turn out many 
pupils all of whom are immediately distinguishable as produdts of 
the same system. We seek rather to discover by every possible means 
the nature of the talent of each individual, the kind of dancing which 
each one does best and to which the whole personality of the pupil is 
best suited. 

In the curriculum at Denishawn all schools of the dance are repre 
sented: the purely ckssic ballet of the Italian, French, and Russian 
schools, national dancing of various sorts, the Greek dancing which 
was first given to this generation by Isadora Duncan, and finally the 
entire gamut of East Indian, Egyptian, Japanese, and other Oriental 
dances which Miss St. Denis has developed. 

The first step in this " individuality system " of training is a " diag 
nosis lesson" in which we study the new pupil. She is allowed to dance 
whatever she chooses. It may be something she has learned previous 
to coming to Denishawn or something she herself has created out 
of her love for dancing. She is given various fabrics with which to 
costume herself, and is asked to improvise to various rhythms and 
tempos of music. After working thus with her through this first les- 



son, the teacher makes out a " prescription." This prescription lays Ruth St. Denis 
down a definite course of training comprising technical exercises and Pioneer & Prophet 
the learning of such dances as are best suited to the student's person 
ality. Having mastered this task, she returns and performs before us 
the dances she has learned. 

After a certain period of studying the pupil, dances are created for 
her, movements planned, music chosen,colors and fabrics of costumes 
worked out, all to accentuate the personality of the pupil and to place 
the emphasis on those things in which she is, by temperament and 
physical build, best fitted to excel. The result of this is an individual 
produd, perhaps contrary to many traditions as to art form, but more 
nearly expressing the pupil's personality than anything to be achieved 
through a fixed system of dance. By this system we have developed 
a number of dancers who have gone on the stage with a unique style 
of dancing to offer the public. 

One of the best examples of our training is Ada Forman, who is 
now appearing in New York. To be quite candid, Miss Forman was 
not a tremendously promising young woman when she first appeared 
at Denishawn and not at all the type most people would seled: at 
sight as the dancer. After her diagnosis lesson,we saw that she had 
remarkable feet, unusual in shape, and that she used them remark 
ably ; she had a fine precision in the movement of her body, and 
supple arms with curiously shaped elbows. On this material we set 
to work, training and developing the points of advantage which our 
analysis had made evident. I created for her three Javanese dances, 
one of which she gave in New York for five weeks at the Hud 
son, the Candler, and the Palace theatres. Miss Forman then starred 
with these dances at the Palais Royal, New York, and is now being 
featured in them in The Greenwich Village Follies. Miss Forman by 
herself has little creative ability, nor is she a particularly quick stu- 



Ruth St. Denis dent,yet through her Denishawn training she has developed and per- 
Pioneer & Prophet feded a unique set of dances to which the public pays ready honor. 

This emphasis on the individual qualities is also part of the train 
ing in the Ruth St. Denis company. Lubovska never attended the 
school, but had her first legitimate stage appearance in the Ruth St. 
Denis company, and received her training from us along the lines of 
the Denishawn system. At the time we engaged her, she was danc 
ing with her brother in a Los Angeles hotel grill modern dances for 
which she was obviously unfitted. Both she and her brother were en 
gaged for the company, in which she appeared under the name of 
Mile. Psychema. I taught her a Danse Egyptienne which suited per 
fectly her long lean lines, her sharp angles, and her rather exotic man 
ner. In this dance she won great success, and the following season 
made a tour of the Orpheum and Keith theatres as a leading dancer, 
with this dance as her principal offering, and later appeared at the 
New York Hippodrome. 

Evan Burrowes-Fontaine, likewise, had her first appearance on the 
legitimate stage with the Ruth St. Denis company and was taught a 
Danse Egyptienne which she used afterwards with great success. She 
was not so good in this type, however, as Lubovska, and has this 
season featured an East Indian dance, after the manner of Ruth St. 
Denis's earlier Oriental dances. Vanda Hoff is a San Francisco girl 
whom we first saw dancing at a charity ball given at the St. Francis 
Hotel. She is a most delightful natural dancer, but is without ini 
tiative or creative ability to any marked degree. Miss Hoff toured 
two seasons in vaudeville, appearing in the dance-drama The Danc 
ing Girl of Delhi, in which her principal solo dance was one Ruth St. 
Denis had taught her. Betalo Rubino who appeared in The Danc 
ing Girl of Delhi also made her debut under Ruth St. Denis's super 
vision. 

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One of the most interesting results of the Denishawn training is Ruth St. Denis 
Margaret Loomis, who is now playing leading parts in moving picture Pioneer & Prophet 
productions. Miss Loomis was with us all of the season of 1915-1916, 
and has also spent two summers at the school. She is a girl from Los 
Angeles who had wished for real self-expression, but because of her 
social position and the lack of necessity for working had never been 
allowed anything but social activity. She became self-repressed and, 
becauseof her deep and intense nature,almost morbidly introspective. 
The Denishawn training helped her to swing the pendulum the other 
way and let her emotions find vent in satisfying expression. However, 
she was not a facile pupil in responding quickly or well to steps or 
technique. Her talent lay along the lines of the dramatic, and she had 
a Chinese or Japanese quality in appearance and manner. The dance 
which was created for her as a solo, and which she did on tour with 
us, was Chinese,following a delicately dramatic theme, and was called 
The Lady Picking Mulberries. It was while she was doing this dance that 
a motion picture director saw her and found in her a new creator of 
leading roles for the film. After playing as leading kdy with Sessue 
Hayakawa in five pictures she later toured as Miss St. Denis's sole 
support one season while I was in the army, but has returned to the 
"movies"with increased success. 

Florence O'Denishawn,who is now opening her third season as 
the featured dancer of Raymond Hitchcock's HitchyKoo, studied at 
Denishawn during its first summer, went on tour the following sea 
son with the St. Denis company, studied again the following summer, 
and toured one more complete season with us. I then prepared for 
her a repertoire of dances, costumed them, and secured her a fifteen 
weeks' engagement at the Edelweiss Gardens in Chicago, followed by 
six weeks at the Hotel Winton in Cleveland. Here Raymond Hitch 
cock saw her dance, offered her a position with him, and when the 



Ruth St. Denis new production opened, her solo Denishawn Egyptian dance in the- 
Pioneer & Prophet atrical parlance " stopped the show." Her real name, by the way, is 

Florence Andrews; I had given her as a stage name "Florence of 
Denishawn," but a printer's error changed this to "Florence O'Deni- 
shawn," which she has kept. She will undoubtedly take her place as 
one of the foremost dancers of this generation, and this will be due as 
much to her fine charader as to her talent. 

The Denishawn training does not stop with the teaching of dance 
steps and dances. On the contrary, we try to give each pupil, in addi 
tion to the specific, technical dance training, a comprehensive practi 
cal education in all matters even indirectly related to this art : costume, 
scene, lighting, music, all those elements with which a creative artist 
may have to deal during the progress of his dance from the original 
conception of it to the finished production. For example, a course of 
lectures teaches the relation of music to the dance. There are teachers 
of the Jacques-Dalcroze eurhythmies trained in the Dalcroze Institute 
in Dresden. There is a craft department where pupils are taught the 
designing of costumes and the study of decorative backgrounds as 
well as the actual making of many of those accessories to costume 
which it is impossible to purchase. The costume department was for 
one season under the direction of Miss Grace Ripley, director of the 
Boylston Studio of Costume and Design in Boston. 

Another means of practical education is found in the productions 
given by the school. Pupils attend all the rehearsals and are thus en 
abled to obtain a working knowledge of lighting effects and stage 
mechanics. 

Denishawn in its four years of existence can be said to have achieved 
world- wide fame. Our dormitory pupils represented every state in the 
United States, as well as Canada, Cuba, and Hawaii. Magazines in 
London, Mexico, South America, Spain, Italy, and Japan published 

92 



pidures and articles dealing with this American university of the Ruth St. Denis 
dance. Pioneer & Prophet 

The influence of Denishawn has been felt in many aspects of 
American life. Almost every worth-while picture made in Califor 
nia, in which dancers appeared, used the students of Denishawn, and 
over twenty leading players of the film world have taken private les 
sons with us.The Denishawn dancers in vaudeville and on the legiti 
mate stage have given a new standard of dancing to the public in 
America and the Orient. Even to the smaller places of the country 
the message of the school has penetrated ; teachers who have studied 
at Denishawn have gone back to their home towns preaching the 
gospel of the dance glorified. 

As to the future Denishawn and what it is to be, I refer the reader 
to the last chapter of this book, The Prophecy by the Pioneer. 



93 




Ruth St. Denis CHAPTER XVII S* BRINGING THIS CHRONICLE 
Pioneer & Prophet TO A CLOSED 

In rereading what I have written up to this point,! feel called upon 
to address the Gentle Reader and ask him in his criticism to remem 
ber that I offer this book in no sense as a literary achievement. It is 
simply a story that interests me intensely, and I have told it as directly 
as I could. If I have seemed over enthusiastic at times, let me assure 
you that in reality I have used great restraint, and that what I have 
given utterance to is temperate and subdued in comparison to the en 
thusiasm I feel. And let me state lest you think my heart has run 
away with my head that this worshiping at the shrine of Ruth St. 
Denis, the artist, antedates by some years my personal acquaintance 
with Ruth St. Denis, the woman.The old adage has it that familiarity 
breeds contempt, but familiarity with Ruth St. Denis has only fed the 
flames of my devotion to her great genius. 

There has been considerable demand for some such book as this 
about the art of Ruth St. Denis, and it seemed as if I were the person 
to write it not because of any skill in writing, but because of my be 
ing the one most able to assemble the necessary material, and because 
to me the book is a work of love. Most fortunate it is that I used this 
material when I did, since much that can never be replaced was de 
stroyed in the fire atTedruth in November, 1919. 1 believe that this 

94 



book will be valuable to the younger generation, and to future gen- Ruth St. Denis 
erations of dancers and dance devotees, giving, as it does, the stage Pioneer & Prophet 
pictures, pictures of costumes, description of action, and information 
about music and other matters related to the St. Denis productions. 
Certainly many of us have ardently wished that there had been such 
a book written by a contemporary about the great dancers of the 
past Taglioni, Guimard, Cerrito, and many others of whose work 
we have only meagre accounts. 

I have purposely refrained from any comparative criticism of Ruth 

St. Denis and her contemporaries. Each of the truly great holds a pkce 

which is unique and unassailable. However, I hope to be forgiven for 

quoting the following by CarolineCaffin in her book called Vaudeville: 

The modern revival of the love of dancing may be said to have 

" shown its first tentative blossoming in this country when, to the won- 

" der and delight of all lovers of the beautiful, Ruth St. Denis made 

" her first appearance on the vaudeville stage in her temple dance of 

" Radha. She crept in, unheralded, unknown, and it was only by degrees 

" that it was rumored that something new in the world was being re- 

" vealed. For so entirely was her conception that of an artist, so thor- 

" oughlyhad she absorbed the mystical atmosphere of Oriental lore 

" and saturated her presentation in it, moreover, so impersonal and ab- 

" strad was her performance that it became something more than mere 

" amusement and claimed a place in the category of art. 

Not, however, that there was ever any lack of dancers on the vaude- 
" ville stage, but the interest in their work was not very vital, except 
" on such occasions when the appearance of such stars as Carmencita 
" fanned to a brief glow the flame of popular enthusiasm.The right of 
" the waltz, as demonstrated by Letty Lind and Sylvia Grey, had lan- 
" guished. The old fervor of the buck and wing dancers had become 
" mechanical and sophisticated, and the rag time syncopation of the 

95 



\ 



Ruth St. Denis " negro music had not yet inspired any more individual expression than 
Pioneer & Prophet " the merest imitation of negro antics,hardly worthy to be called dances. 
" Such entertainers as still relied on dancing as their medium of ex- 
" pression received small encouragement, so that with few exceptions 
" they attempted little more than a display of agility and technical ac- 
" complishment. 

But the appearance of Ruth St. Denis, a native-born American, who 
" evolved her art, expressive as it is of the Orient, in her own country, 
" was followed by the arrival first of Isadora Duncan, an American, it 
" is true, but one who had developed her art in the stimulating atmos- 
" phere of Germany. A little kter came the two companies of Russian 
" dancers with their finished technique of expressional interpretation, 
" and by this time the claims of the dance had awakened enthusiastic 
" response on all hands, and from the Cinderella of the arts it has be- 
" come the admired and feted pride of popular approval. 

Ruth St. Denis, however, remains in a class by herself. No other 
" dancer is attempting to do just the same thing that she does so well. 
" Some of her presentations are less dances than a series of poses of 
" wonderful expressiveness. But the sensitive beauty of her pictorial 
" effedts, the exquisite refinements of suggestion which she imparts to 
" the detail and atmosphere that she thus creates, the result of minute 
" and sympathetic study, have not been rivaled by any other artist 
" on our stage. The great Russian ballets are the refinements of one 
" artist on the work of another, and great masters are proud to asso- 
" ciate in the working out of their elaborate creation. And back of them 
" all is a tradition to guide not only the performers but also the audi- 
" ence. But Ruth St. Denis had to create her own traditions, to find 
" and train all her assistants, to amalgamate the work of her musicians 
" and scene painters and incorporate their work with hers into a whole." 

I think the reason why it is impossible to compare Ruth St. Denis 

96 



with any other dancer is, perhaps, that the dance is only one facet of Ruth St. Denis 
her genius. Her ability shows itself hardly less in her stage pictures Pioneer & Prophet 
than in her dancing. They are works of art worthy of any painter : 
she is a master of composition, always placing herself in relation to 
the other people on the stage and to the scene itself so as to make 
continually a flawless pidure. And certainly no one in this generation 
has handled color in more masterly fashion. Mark Perugini in his 
book, The Art of the Ballet, says : 

There was Miss Ruth St. Denis at the Scala a vision of all the 
" poetry and mystery of the East. Ruth St. Denis in an Indian market 
" place representing a snake-dance, making cobras of her flexible arms 
" and hands ! Ruth St. Denis as a Buddhist acolyte in the jungle ! Ruth 
" St. Denis in a Dance of the Senses, so significantly poetic and full of 
" strange allure. Always the glamour of the East, but without its men- 
" ace and without its vice; the East exalted and austere. Moreau him- 
" self might have envied her those dreams of form and color made 
" manifest, and all who saw her must have realized that Ruth St. Denis 
" danced her lovely pidures as an artist born." 

In addition to her dancing ability is a marvelous dramatic power. 
This is not to be confused with the pantomimic ading which is the 
usual accompaniment of dancing which tells a story, but real ading, 
emotion superbly and convincingly expressed simultaneously with 
the movements of the dance. 

Mary Fanton Roberts in The Touchstone for May, 1919, writes : 
It is Ruth St. Denis's amazing gift that she is able to render so void 
" her own personality that only the creature she wishes to conjure up 
" can be realized by the audience. She is never striving to express her 
" own personality that world-wish of all youth rather she is making 
" of herself a vacuum which is flooded at her desire with the life of 
" other souls and other worlds Egypt, India, Japan. The look of the 

97 



Ruth St. Denis " devourer of the desert pours from her eyes, the lilting motion of the 
Pioneer & Prophet " peacock is in her neck, the venom of the cobra in the dangerous twist 
" of her waist, the slow lift of the inhuman head. 

She shows the great Empress Theodora with the sense of such stu- 
" pendous power that she moves as one stepping from mountain to 
" mountain, her gesture without measure. As the Japanese dancer, she 
" sways across the stage, with grace and beauty in line and costume, 
" ignoring the young Samurai men as she passes near them in the trail- 
" ing gl or y f ner robes, and then luring them with faint slow glance 
" of insolent invitation. She brings Egypt, with subtle coquetry and a 
" smile that carries with it the cup of poison. 

Ruth St. Denis not only reveals the heart and soul of India, Egypt, 
" Siam; she is at will the fearsome god of the country or a delicate figure 
" on a tissue print. With such weight or fragility of substance as she 
" may desire she can literally make you see what she wishes to present. 
" She tells me that she has not been in India, yet she has the essence of 
" the Hindu woman in her look, dress, and motion. Equally she sinks 
" into the murky lover of Africa; her eyes beckon you; her mouth 
" mocks and woos you; her body is heavy, slow moving, glowing, every 
" step a sedudion. She menaces all the world with beauty, with desire. 

I saw her a few weeks ago do an Algerian drama with a quality 
" so wholly African, so vibrant, so savage, that only the soul of the Al- 
" gerian dancer animated her, as with the sound of the tomtoms she 
" swayed through a dance of sedudion and rage and love. Her plat- 
" form was a rug, her background many people, but she never saw us, 
" only the jungle and the black lover and the cruel snares that tangled 
" her brown feet and fickle heart. 

Before the dance she came among us in costume and brought us 
" Oriental flowers and sweets in a huge basket, laughing at the women 
" and brushing the men with the fringe of her soft scarf. 

98 



This same evening she did the most extraordinary Japanese dance, Ruth St. Denis 
" or rather play, to music. It is in my estimation one of the greatest Pioneer & Prophet 
" achievements of her art. In this dance-drama she is a Japanese ador. 
" She is at the same time an American audience watching the Japanese 
" ador with amusement but without understanding. She actually gives 
" you the impression of these two characterizations. We who watched 
" her that night were also the audience, laughing. She played the com- 
" edy with exquisite skill, absolutely from the Japanese point of view. 
" She talked with the rapid raucous Japanese voice. She revealed fear, 
" delight, annoyance ; little by little she became absorbed in the greater 
" movement of the drama she ceased to be an audience watching her- 
" self and became wholly the ador, and then the tragedy began that 
" ended in the ador's death, and we, the real audience, found ourselves 
" with tears in our eyes. 

Once again Ruth St. Denis had made herself a channel through 
" which the tragedy of another world has found expression. As the 
" litde foreign ador she had made us kugh and understand and weep. 
" Some of those in the audience who had lived in Japan, traveled in 
" Algeria, sailed up the Nile, really knew little of these lands compared 
" with Ruth St. Denis's infinite and mysterious wisdom. She does not 
" know them physically, but she beckons them all to inhabit her body. 
" She possesses strange memories of things she has never seen, of lands 
" she has never visited, and of people she has never known. It is un- 
" fathomable this quality of being what she does not know, piduring 
" what she has never experienced." 

I know of no one acquainted with Ruth St. Denis herself who has 
not been struck with the fad that she is a greater person than she is an 
artist; and it is her personality powerful through love and gentle 
nessher splendidly keen intelled, and, first and last, her spiritual 
quality, which make comparison with others impossible. Crawford 

99 



Ruth St. Denis Flitch in his Modern Dancing and Dancers catches a glimpse of this 
Pioneer & Prophet fad: 

The dancing of the East, or rather of India in particular, has found 
" a very skilled translator in a dancer of American origin, Miss Ruth 
" St. Denis. I believe it is true that Miss St. Denis has never adually 
" been in India, but she has mixed freely with Indians, she has studied 
" their art, their religions, their charader; she has penetrated into the 
" spirit of the people as far as it is possible for a Westerner to do so. 
" Her dancing has for the most part a religious and symbolic charac- 
" ter. Miss St. Denis duly ranks as one of the most cultured dancers 
" of the time and, in her special sphere, certainly the most learned." 

And so, having to the best of my ability set forth the story of Ruth 
St. Denis, the Pioneer, I will bring this narrative to a close and let 
Ruth St. Denis, the Prophet, speak for herself. 



100 



oAn Essay on the Future of the Dance RuthSt - Denis 




UTH ST. DENIS'S PROPHECY: Danc 
ing is the divine impulse of spirit to move rhythmi- 
cally,proportimately,andperpetwlly,butinorder 
that the dance may attain its rightful place among 
the arts and may serve humanity as it should, danc 
ers must change their emphasis from the material 
to the spiritual. Havelock Ellis says: "If we are 
indifferent to the art of dancing, we have failed to 
understand not merely the supreme manifestation 
of physical life, but also the supreme symbol of 
spiritual life. " The dance compositions of the fu 
ture will be built on divine themes instead of on the human longings and 
egotism that have given birth to much of the so-called art of the world. But 
as yet the dance has not come to its own high place among the arts. It has 
been grievously retarded by Puritanic disapproval. For this divine impulse 
must be manifested through the human body which has been hated and 
distrusted according to Christian teaching under the suppressive influence 
of St. Paul. Even as Byzantine art sought to divorce the spiritual from the 
physical, depicting the body always as meagre, unlovely, having neither form 
nor comeliness that might divert the beholder from preparation for the life 
hereafter, so religionists down to our day have assumed that the beauty and 
grace of the body could never be significant of the high and the ideal, but are 
subtle snares for the sensually minded. On the contrary, the sex-consciousness 
of all who study the dance seriously as a spiritual manifestation, will be puri 
fied through the destruction of false modesty and through the gaining of a 
concept of the purity and beauty of the body. 

Considering the dance in its two aspecls, as art and as play, we come to 
the age-old question, "What is art ? " From one point of view it is play, the 



Pioneer & Prophet 



101 



Ruth St. Denis most delightful, enchanting play that man knows; from another, it is work, 
Pioneer & Prophet the most serious, strenuous work that man does,perhaps the only work worthy 

of his perfected powers. And of all the arts, the one that partakes most of the 
spontaneous activity that we call play and the devoted toil that alone deserves 
the name of work is the dance. Its beginnings may he observed wherever there 
is a healthy child or even a puppy or a kitten; its religious development 
may be studied among primitive people in almost all parts of the world; its 
artistic perfection, so well known and loved among the Greeks, can be found 
in a few favored spots in our own place and time. 

As people grow more religious, as they think, talk, live their religion, and as 
the love of beauty and the manifestations of it become recognized elements in 
true religion, they will grow more expressive and their expressions will utilize 
the body as an instrument of religious consciousness among other art forms. 

A new order of students will appear who, studying the dance as a great 
art, and following up the stream of their own art-consciousness, will arrive 
at the central point from which emanate all arts and the harmonies of life: 
namely, spiritual principle. They will fnd that the consideration of spiritual 
principle has as much relation to their dancing as to any other part of their 
lives. 

The dance is the universal language, as the drama, depending largely on 
the spoken word, cannot be; and its appeal is obviously more immediate. 
The voice and the body have ever been the medium for direct spiritual ex 
pression, for they are the only instruments that maintain an independent 
and unbroken relation between spirit and matter. The body must be con 
sidered as a complete and adaptable instrument for the expression of emo 
tions and ideas. As such, it has its capacities and limitations, even as any 
musical instrument, and should be viewed in the same way, though the range 
of the body is much greater than that of any instrument ever invented. Its 
capacities for expression are almost unlimited, yet so far in this period of the 
renaissance of the dance, we have played upon it very few melodies. The 

102 



two branches of the study of the dance should be this instrument itself and Ruth St. Denis 
the compositions that may be played upon it. Pioneer & Prophet 

Thedance has its own principles and rules of expression, apart from those 
of correlated music. The music available today is as much a hindrance as 
a help to the dance. We shall not produce the music that will he more of a 
help than a hindrance until we study the art of the dance separately. We can 
not have a perfect whole until we have two perfect halves. In past genera 
tions music has had the support and the opportunity for expression that has 
been denied the dance. In many cases, then, when we view a performance, 
consistingo fa symphonic work played by an orchestra and danced by either 
a solo dancer or a group, we leave with an impression of having seen a won 
derful piece of dance art, when in fad the music has so filed our conscious 
ness that upon the dance has been thrown an illusion of perfection that does 
not really belong there. On the other hand, much of our finest dance writ 
ing and interpretation is marred and limited by the utterly inadequate or 
unsuitable music available. 

As a remedy for this, I propose that we search for the under lying principles 
that govern the dance as an independent art. The principles of mathematics 
underlie the dance as they do music, architecture, and the other arts. The 
application of these principles will evolve for us a form of dance which, when 
tonalized, will in turn give us a form of dance music which we do not now 
possess,and which is absolutely necessary for the fullest development of the 
synthetic art of the dance. 

One of the fruits of the Greater Denishawn will be an organization which 
Mr. Shawn and I have called to ourselves, the "Synchoric Orchestra. " This 
will consist of from forty to sixty dancers, each one corresponding to a musi 
cal instrument in a symphony orchestra. Great symphonies of movement 
will he composed in which each dancer will be used in the same manner as 
the instruments of an orchestra would be by the conductor of an audible 
symphony. These symphonies of movement may or may not be accompanied 

103 



Ruth St. Denis by the symphony orchestra; in cases when they are so accompanied, the rela- 
Pioneer & Prophet tions between the movement of each dancer and the notes of the correspond 
ing instrument will be mathematically maintained. 

Though all arts are synthetic in the sense of finding their fullest expres 
sion and meaning through the support and co-operation of the other arts, 
still the dance is the one primal and essential synthetic art. Everything nat 
urally flows from it and to it. For the perfect expression of the synthetic art 
of the dance, all the concomitant arts should be as complete in their expres 
sion as is that of the dance, and yet in their association subservient to the 
dancer's conception. 

The first step in the progress of the dance as an independent art to its full 
est synthetic expression is the germinal idea, or theme. The next is bodily 
movement.The third is music, or the tonalizing of this movement. Next, the 
clothing of the body, the scenery, the lighting, bring us to the prime necessity 
of a theatre which can make possible the conditions in which this most deli 
cate and ephemeral art may be nurtured and developed. 

In such a theatre the essential elements are space and light; the secondary 
elements are music, costuming, and stage setting.These elements in them 
selves are the same as those demanded by every worker in the theatre. But 
the theatre for the dance needs a unique arrangement of these elements in a 
form that does not now exist. For the dance, being both plastic and graphic, 
that is, sculptural and pictorial, must have conditions underwhichthat two 
fold nature can have fullest expression.Theatres have been built for drama, 
concert halls for music, but no theatre for the dance. 

A permanent theatre should be built and endowed that may be a place of 
birth and of asylum for those artistic impulses that come into the world too 
soon or too late, and must be protected and nourished in their infancy by 
the mother-consciousness in art if they are to live at all. Not all these spirit 
ual children will live, but there will from time to time appear a peculiar and 
beautiful idea, destined to have far-reaching effect in healing the world of 
104 



its artistic sins, which, if given protection at its birth and during its maturity, Ruth St. Denis 
will survive. Pioneer & Prophet 

There will he numberless people who will say that this hope of ours is too 
great, too idealistic, that it will never pay. Yet Truth does pay, it pays the 
highest of all. I know full well that there has to be a period of faith before 
the material rewards come. This wilderness we are eager to cross, for we both 
see and believe that our promised theatre will justify itself, to this generation 
in refreshment of spirit, and to the younger in education. 

I was born with a great love of the dance as a means of spiritual expression 
and though I have been burdened and confused many times in my career, the 
main thread running through all my work is the purpose and joy that I have 
had, and still do have in increasing measure, of reflecting in movement those 
qualities of consciousness that are true and beautiful. All these years I have 
been an itinerant minister of the gospel of beauty, with no resting place, no 
home for my message. 

That there is money to he had, and help, and material, we should uncon 
ditionally declare if it were a church we had in mind, a place where the chil 
dren of this world might be filled with the beauty of holiness, but the theatre 
is my church, the stage my pulpit, my congregation the mixed multitudes, and 
there, to them, I preach the holiness of beauty. 

The financial and physical conditions of the stage are hard beyond all de 
scription for all that does not directly appeal to the taste of the masses. Only 
those forms of entertainment that can be counted on to satisfy the appetite 
of a restless world are welcome, and only those artists who, backed by tremen 
dous physical stamina, possess ideals of indestructible quality and the faith 
that God has not called them amiss, can survive the struggle to bring truth 
as well as amusement to the millions. 

lam only one of a number not too large of those who have given their 
faith and strength and money to the upholding of the standard of the arts 
of the stage, and now after some fifteen years of constant creation and labor, 

105 



Ruth St. Denis I have come to the next plane of my obedience a Permanent Theatre for 
Pioneer & Prophet the Dance and Related Arts. 

It is one thing to he trained., another, to perform; what has been true of 
Denishawn is true of all dancing schools in the country. They teach, but they 
do not provide the conditions for the flowering of that teaching. This en 
dowed theatre would do that. Furthermore, it should be an art center for the 
community. It should be a combination of theatre, church, and art gallery. 
There should be constantly changed exhibitions of all the fine arts. The public 
learns from one art to appreciate another, from seeing great paintings and 
sculpture to judge and enjoy correft and beautiful settings and groupings 
on the stage. Beauty, like money, should be kept in circulation to have value. 
The usual art galleries are too much like tombs, far from life and its swift, 
strong currents. This theatre would provide for each artist the opportunity of 
producing his work under the best conditions. Here each year would be a 
four or five months season of dance, after which the finer productions which 
had proved their worth would be taken on tour throughout the country. 

In connection with this theatre must be a complete institution, a school 
which shall give students of the art of the dance a physical, technical, and 
spiritual training up to the moment of their debut in the theatre. Such an insti 
tution, also, would give to talent too slight for a professional career the pre 
cious opportunity for cultivation and self-expression. It must be remembered 
that the finest art of the Greeks grew out of the universal art expression of 
the people, that both general taste and artistic creation are highest not when 
art is manufactured and sold by a professional class, but when it is a normal 
and happy activity in the life of all. Are we of the twentieth century too late or 
too early for such art activity? It seems to me that we stand on the very thresh 
old of an era of great self-expression and of release of spiritual power. For 
such self-expression and release there is no form of art so fundamental, so in 
spiring, as the dance. Such a theatre and school as I have indicated would 
have upon the younger generation in its impressionable years between eight 

106 



and fifteen an influence incalculable. Our fashions in dress, in architecture, Ruth St. Denis 
in all modern life would be changed for the better. This may seem an exag- Pioneer & Prophet 
geration, but reflect what has been done already under the influences accom 
panying our renaissance of the dance. The fashion of free, flowing lines in 
women 's dress today was set by the costumes of classic dancing. The example 
of stenciling, of dyeing, of jewel work, of artistic handicraft of all sorts 
which have done much to free people from the domination of the often ugly 
machine-made, commercial adornment, was first given by dancers who only 
so could meet their need of authentic and lovely costumes. 

Dancing as a fine art has helped to revolutionize stage setting, abolishing 
meaningless elaboration for eloquent simplicity. From seeing beautiful clas 
sic dancing, thousands of children have come to see the beauty in Greek sculp 
ture. The present love of Oriental color and design is, I think, traceable to 
the influence of the higher forms of Oriental dancing. And all these fashions 
and interests, seeming externals, are symbols of a great spiritual reality a 
changed attitude toward life, a new freedom, a higher harmony, the prelude 
to a better understanding of the self, of our own people, of foreign peoples, 
and of the immanent Divine in all. 

Our great reason for the urgency of my plea for permanent and adequate 
conditions for these personal arts of the theatre is that the projected arts have 
time working for them instead of against them.Thepoem, the musical compo 
sition, the statue, the painting, the building, are all projected works of the 
artist : they can go where he does not, they remain after he is gone. So if this 
generation has not come to realize what has been given to it, the next gen 
eration may. It is, indeed, no easier for such artists to endure neglect or 
hostility than for us of the stage, but there is this great difference : they have 
this satisfaction and hope : that while they may pass, their work remains; but 
for the appreciation of these works which I call the personal arts singing, 
dancing, and acting we cannotwait,for our instruments are our very selves, 
and as interpreters, when we go, our works go with us. 

107 



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